Ofri Avgil is a Junior at UC Riverside studying Biology (Pre-Med). She hopes to attend Medical School upon graduation.
As the President of SSI at UC Riverside, Ofri is responsible for organizing fun events for the chapter, hosting weekly meetings for both the club and her board, organizing food each week for those meetings, reserving rooms for events, contacting speakers/sponsors for events, and organizing conference opportunities for the club. Ofri serves as an ICC Fellow in addition to her high demand position as President of SSI at UC Riverside.
Ofri’s connection to Israel really hits home for her.
“I was born in Israel and moved to San Diego when I was 7 years old. I’ve always had a strong connection to my childhood homeland and always look forward to connect with my Jewish/Israeli communities around me.” Her connection, she says, “motivates me constantly to protect my home and find new ways to have those surrounding me do so as well.”
Growing up in San Diego, Ofri was accustom to having a strong Jewish community without any issues discussing Israel or being an Israeli. After attending college and moving away from home, where her father remains her biggest influence in her Zionist values, she realized that this wasn’t the case anymore.
The pro-Israel group on UC Riverside’s campus began as ‘Highlanders for Israel’ and approaching Ofri’s presidency of the chapter, she realized UC Riverside needed some help in improving their club.
In seeking improvements, Ofri’s main goal was to create a safe Jewish community for my students and allow them to build that strong connection to Israel without feeling scared or intimidated by other anti-Israel students.She also wanted to have a safe space for students to talk about any anti-Semitic instances either on our campus or in their hometowns.
Upon contacting students on other campuses, she came to realize a lot of them had rebranded their former pro-Israel clubs to become Students Supporting Israel chapters. After speaking with Ilan Sinelnikov, she knew SSI was something UC Riverside had to do.
Upon establishment of UC Riverside’s SSI Chapter, Ofri feels that her main goal has been accomplished.
“I feel like we have successfully done so, and we’ve been able to teach our students to rely on one another and always feel protected rather than scared and intimidated from hateful events.”
Ofri is thankful to have been brought into the SSI family, as it brought her chapter closer to other SSI groups at other universities who could exchange ideas, and learn from each other on creating a stronger club as well as potential event ideas to pursue.
SSI also taught me a ton about leadership and how to lead a club successfully. It taught me how to recruit members to our club and different events as well.
She says the SSI network also served as a warning for potential hate that could occur on campus and how to fight back as a unit.
“Instead of fighting as just one club on one campus, we grew a whole team who could support us and fight with us. It taught me a lot not only on leadership but about Israel and politics that surround it.”
With activism training, Ofri feels that she knows how to approach tricky situations confidently and she is able to stand up for Israel, knowing others may have differing views.
“I also learned how to support my club members and help THEM feel that confidence in those situations and allow them to feel safety and comfort in our club when those situations do occur.”
UC Riverside’s campus leans apathetic, whereas the majority of the student body aren’t too informed about Israel. While the SJP currently stands on UC Riverside’s campus, Ofri says they luckily don’t deal with too much hate on campus. Her new goal is to teach more students about the great things that come from Israel and possibly send some non-Jewish students to Israel so they can come back and spread that experience with other students to strengthen the Pro-Israel stance around campus.
Ofri’s most proud moment with SSI is the chapter’s recent Krav Maga event. She worked extra hard with her board to organize this event, and wanted to make sure enough students could attend. Her results were extremely successful!
“Everything went so amazing I came home so so happy after the event was done. We had new students come in for our event who were interested in attending our clubs following that event. The event had more students attend than we ever had at our general meetings. It brought my board closer together as well after having everyone work together to get everything done.”
The largest problem facing UC Riverside’s campus today, Ofri describes as “false advertising.” With social media playing such a huge role in society, it is frustrating to see so many students who don’t know anything about Israel. Ofri says she sees many posts being shared on social media attacking Israel and showing things Israel “ has done,” where the majority of what they show simply isn’t true. This type of media bias creates a disposition for students to gain a hate for Israel based off a video or image with a false caption.
With the work Ofri is doing with her team at UC Riverside’s SSI chapter, she hopes to change these biases, and continue to spread the truth about her country!