Photo: Left to right, Kate Chavez, Shelly Pertsovsky, Maya Lane and Sydney Cohen.
StandWithUs is proud to announce the Kenneth Leventhal High School Interns for the 2021-22 school year. They are: Shelly Pertsovsky, senior, Horizon High School; Sydney Cohen, senior, Phoenix Country Day School and Maya Lane, a junior at Chaparral High School.
Created in 2012, the internship selects and trains student leaders from high schools throughout North America to educate about Israel at their schools and to combat antisemitism.
During the two-semester program, Leventhal Interns, who are juniors and seniors, identify the educational needs at their schools as they pertain to Israel, whether they are rooted in misinformation or disinformation. Then, working with their StandWithUs regional high school coordinator, they develop a vision to meet those needs through relevant and practical educational programming.
They also receive the tools to identify antisemitism – whether it is rooted in ignorance or outright hatred – to address and combat it, including an understanding of their legal rights. They attended an August conference that prepared them for the year and will participate in StandWithUs “International Conference: Israel in Focus” in January.
150 Leventhal Interns from 150 schools were selected for the 2021-22 year.
The conference was held virtually August 2-5. The theme was “Foundations,” as the Leventhal Interns cultivated a foundational level of knowledge and a leadership tool kit to kick-off the internship. They developed a well-rounded yet nuanced framework to understand Israel’s story and the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Leventhal Interns also learned to identify antisemitism, discussed strategies for implementing an educational and/or legal response, and received training from the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department and Center for Combating Antisemitism. In regional breakouts, they participated in leadership and professional development workshops and conversations.
Kate Chavez continues as the StandWithUs National Associate Director of High School Affairs working with the Arizona Leventhal Interns. Liz Tsai continues as Executive Director of High School Affairs.
Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs observed that, “while historically Jewish teens were motivated to join the internship because of their desire to learn about Israel, the additional motivation for the 2021 – 2022 class is the intensified challenge of antisemitism in local communities and across North America. We believe this is a reflection of current events, and also, sadly, the nature of rising antisemitism on social media.”
Shelly Pertsovsky joined to gain “a deeper understanding of Israel and antisemitism, as well as how to engage in these conversations with my Jewish and non-Jewish peers.” She is looking forward to “running programs for my classmates and friends that teaches them about the full diversity of Israel, reminding them that Israel is more than conflict.
“The Conference broke down complex and nuanced topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the formation of the modern Middle East, and Israel’s social history,” she states. “I was also taught my legal rights if I were to be faced with antisemitism.”
Sydney Cohen admits to having faced antisemitism in her own life. She explains that she joined, “to learn how to effectively combat this hatred and surround myself with other teens who have similar goals. By hosting interactive programs for my community, I hope to educate non-Jewish peers about historical and current antisemitism, the Jewish experience, and how to be an ally in the fight against this hate.”
The Conference taught Sydney, “the importance of educating myself before educating others. It’s crucial for Jewish teens to learn the tools first, and then bring these lessons into our communities.”
Maya Lane joined because, “Jewish identity is incredibly important to me. This internship will give me the confidence and tools to help combat antisemitism and protect the Jewish community.”
She has many goals but mainly, she hopes to “gain the confidence and knowledge to speak up for what I believe in. At the Conference, I learned tips and tactics about how to make my presentations and programs intriguing for different audiences. I hope to mobilize the Jewish community around me through the events I create this year.”