Last weekend, a group of 32 Lewis & Clark students led by LC’s J Street U chapter coordinators Naomi Goldman-Nagel ’19, Jack Levin ’19 and Ellen Schwartz ’17 went to D.C. for the J Street national conference “Defending Our Values, Fighting For Our Future.” They sought to learn about the Israel-Palestine conflict and engage in political discussions with elders and other students.
70 percent of the travel costs were covered by J street, and the LC J street U chapter provided a stipend of around $50 for additional costs.
“It was amazing to be able to discuss such an important topic with thousands of other passionate students in our nation’s capitol. We may have begun our conversations in D.C., but they continued throughout our plane ride home with Reed students… it really created a global network of activists,” said Sydney Steel ’19.
College students from all over the country attended the conference to listen to a vast array of speakers conduct panels on topics such as identity politics in Israel, the setbacks for the American Jewish and Muslim communities as a result of the Trump presidency, how to be an activist in a complex political climate, Israeli settlements in the West Bank, human rights violations in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian economy, among others.
J Street is a nonprofit liberal advocacy group whose objective is to promote the two state solution and American leadership in resolving the 50 year conflict. The organization leaders describe themselves as pro-peace, pro-Israel and anti-settlement -asserting that these three modes of thought are not incongruous.
Following a keynote panel discussion at the Washington Convention Center titled “Rising to the challenge: American Jewish Leadership in the Trump Era,” Senator Bernie Sanders gave an address to a packed room that generated zealous applause from the audience.
“Bernie was one of the highlights of the conference for me,” Steel said. “He made it clear that this conflict will not be solved through warfare, but rather mutual respect for both parties and an understanding that a nation is not defined by its corrupt leadership. We’re kind of an example of that.”