Student Spotlight: Gaby Mahgerefteh

Meet Gaby Mahgerefteh, SSI president at California State University Northridge (CSUN)! SSI at CSUN was established this past October 2021. In addition to being the founder and president of SSI at CSUN, Gaby is also a Hasbara Fellow and is on the Chabad student board. She shares why she started SSI!

“The reason why I started SSI at my campus was because after attending Israel this past summer with Hasbara, my connection and support grew a hundred times more. I knew going back to campus I want to spread what I learned this past summer on my trip to students on my campus. I felt the need that it is my job to educate students, but also teach them and show them the amazing side of Israel, therefore I started SSI.”

As Gaby emphasized, her connection to Israel continues to grow, and it is a huge part of her identity as a Persian Jew.

“My connection to the State of Israel is that it is a part of who I am, meaning that without Israel I feel that I would not be here today. Being Jewish, I felt that I automatically have this connection with Israel and after traveling to Israel multiple times, my connection keeps growing and growing. I support Israel because I feel that if I did not support Israel, then who would. Another reason why I support Israel is because of the connection I do have with Israel, Israel is my home and I believe I should be supporting my home. Also, being a Persian Jew, I do feel that my connection and support for Israel are both very strong because Israel is where Persian Jews do feel accepted.”

SSI welcomes students of all backgrounds. During SSI at CSUN’s tabling events, they have been able to engage students who are not Jewish. Gaby explains,

“These past few months since I started SSI on campus, I have been able to grow activism on campus by starting to educate a lot of new students who did not know much about Israel. A lot of non-Jews have been attending our events and stopping by when we do tabling and I have been able to grow activism that way. Also, the Jewish Studies department has been very supportive of SSI on campus, so that has been a big benefit of having their support because it grows the activism on campus towards Israel.”

Just as her connection to Israel grows, so does Gaby’s activism. At the core of her activism is her Zionism. This is a huge factor in her motivation and determination to educate students at CSUN.

“Zionism has played a role on campus with my activism on campus. When someone makes a comment towards Israel, I always try to define the meaning of Zionism to them. Being a Zionist means a lot to me because it shows the support, dedication, and love I have for Israel and with that, I am able to bring it back to my campus.”

Thankfully, CSUN is relatively positive when it comes to Israel. Gaby has been able to build off this positivity in an exciting way!

“My goals that I have for hosting with SSI on my campus is to keep educating students on campus about Israel. My campus is lucky that we got the IHRA passed before SSI was established on my campus. Overall, I want to make sure Jewish and non-Jewish students are being educated about Israel in both an educational standpoint, but also in a fun way.”

Gaby is a senior and is already building up an incredible board of SSI students to continue SSI strong at CSUN. Her future plans include attending grad school to further her career in becoming a college academic advisor. We are grateful for her positive energy and strength and look forward to the future at CSUN. This is only the beginning! To keep up with their work, follow @ssi_csun on Instagram!

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