SSI Student Spotlight: Amanda Severson

Amanda Severson, President of Students Supporting Israel at Benedictine University

Meet, Amanda Severson, President of Students Supporting Israel at Benedictine University.

Amanda is a Senior Nutrition and Dietetics major. Her future plans post-graduation include a combined internship & masters program incorporating her Bachelor of Science degree.

As President of SSI, Amanda’s duties include educating her campus about Israel and being a strong pro-Israel voice on campus — the true embodiment of Students Supporting Israel’s mission statement.

In addition to her Presidency, Amanda serves as a Hasbara Fellow and ZOA Fellow.

Most recently, Amanda’s SSI chapter was instated at Benedictine University, as she had trouble with her university’s administration’s approval. Amanda’s favorite SSI memory was when a professor invited her to his office because he heard that she was trying to get her SSI chapter approved. She explains that,

“He only wanted to lecture me and demonize Israel. I stood up to him and his false claims and gave him the facts. He then got quiet. My favorite thing about hearing hate, is not hearing it at all.”

Many times support for Israel is thought to be due to Jewish roots. In Students Supporting Israel, students of all backgrounds and cultures are encouraged to support Israel. Amanda’s support for Israel is political. She supports Israel because she believes in being a voice for the voiceless. Israel is demonized and people do not believe that the state should exist.

I always think about the poem “First They Came” by Martin Niemöller. I remember it being read to my history class in high school. It moved me so much that when I saw the anti-Israel issue at my school-even though I am not Israeli nor do I practice Judaism- I knew this was the right thing to do.
The part that hit home for me:

‘Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Amanda says that the ways in which SJP shuts down conversation in collaboration with administrative approved hate tend to be the biggest problems facing her campus. On a hostile campus like Benedictine, where the majority of students hate Israel, dialogue is often shut down — disallowing any room for pro-Israel student voices.

Tweets from SJP member, Ayah Ali, of Benedictine University.

SJP at Benedictine has made huge demonstrations with the word Israel and Holocaust in quotation marks. Additionally, SJP members on her campus have gone on record shutting down a Holocaust survivor’s speech, as well as publicly tweeting the promotion of genocide of the Jewish people.

“I wondered how the Catholic University could approve such things and then I realized that there was a population of students that had a lack of representation on campus.”

Amanda started the club because the hate was so strong that she decided if no one was going to challenge this and make a change, she would.

Amanda notes that SSI has done wonders for her personal growth.

I grew in many ways I never could imagine. I am more confident, knowledgeable, and more passionate about world topics/events. I can defend my beliefs and stick up for myself. SSI has taught me how to support the things that I believe in with people of opposing viewpoints in a respectful manner. I no longer care what others think of me.

Amanda has received dirty looks and has had rumors spread about her based on her support for Israel and her bringing SSI to campus.

I now am able to brush it off, because hateful people will do anything in their power to diminish the truth.

With the official establishment of the third chapter of SSI in the state of Illinois, Amanda believes she is capable of doing anything.

One of SSI’s missions is to be a safe space for all students, in particular, Jewish and pro-Israel students. The sad reality is that the Jewish students and pro-Israel students at Benedictine University have never felt more unsafe because since SSI is now contending with SJP, thus SJP has been retaliating.

SSI has impacted Benedictine University’s campus by exposing the hate and lack of knowledge that exists there. It showed Amanda that college campuses are political and, unfortunately, corrupted by biases (exemplified by the 8-month delay tactics that Amanda was faced with). It took pressure from reporters and journalists to get Amanda’s registration moving.

SSI impacted Benedictine because its presence forces dialogue with students and creates an opportunity for students to learn and connect with the only Jewish state in the world — an opportunity that otherwise never existed before.

One goal Amanda has for her SSI chapter is to get students to develop their own personal connection with Israel.

Zionism, according to Amanda, is the right for the Jewish to self-determinate on their ancestral homeland, the right to exist, and the right to protect themselves. The most influential person in Amanda’s Zionism has been SSI’s National Founder and President, Ilan Sinelnikov.

Amanda believes that the fact that a movement such as Zionism, had to be made so the Jews could return home and be supported, should be a big red flag to the world that Jewish people are still so severely persecuted.

5 years from now, if Amanda asked herself where she would be today she would not have guessed President of SSI at Benedictine University.

I believe God has a plan and everything happens for a reason. I could not be happier to be where I am today, because I realize how important the work is that SSI does. Hate is in our congress (BDS), it is at our college campuses (SJP), it is on social media (false information/hate speech), and they are all the new modes of anti-semitism.

If you have an inkling desire to be involved or learn more about it, Amanda is the right person to ask!

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Students Supporting Israel Movement

Students Supporting Israel Movement

Students Supporting Israel (SSI) is a pro-Israel international campus movement that supports the State of Israel.