Student Spotlight: Rachel Berookhim & Juliette Kashani
Meet our student spotlights this week, Rachel Berookhim and Juliette Kashani. They are both juniors and co-presidents of Students Supporting Israel at Loyola Marymount University in California.
Rachel is studying psychology with the goal of going to graduate school for her master’s in marriage and family therapy, while Juliette is majoring in political science and her goal is to attend law school.
Juliette and Rachel describe their campus climate as hostile towards Israel, while many are apathetic as well. Juliette further explains,
“Most students at our school have never met or interacted with Jews or Zionists before. They only know about Israel and Jewish people from what they have seen on social media or from what they were taught at school. So all they know is that everyone hates Israel so they should hate Israel too, and they do not question it. I am in a lot of spaces on campus where I am the only Jewish student or only Zionist student. Because of this I feel like it is my responsibility to talk about my experiences and perspectives with anyone who is willing to listen. I try to be a voice and perspective that challenges what people have been taught on Jews, Zionism, or Israel.”
Even though many students hate Israel, Rachel and Juliette are remaining strong and desire for their SSI chapter to be a place of education for LMU students. Rachel shares her approach to explaining Zionism,
“Our goal is to allow people to gain a better understanding of what Zionism is, or rather, is not. Zionism is not a ploy to hurt Palestinians or exclude others from the land, which is the common narrative that social media has adopted. Zionism is believing in the Jewish right to a homeland, particularly one that is embedded in our history.”
For Rachel, Zionism is not just an idea, but rather it is very personal to her.
“I have family in Israel and view it as my second home. As a Jew, I am aware of my people’s history of persecution and needing a country where we can be ourselves. I support Israel because it is a land where my people have historic roots and where we can be authentically Jewish!”
Juliette expresses her family connection to Israel.
“Israel is the reason why my family was able to leave Iran safely. A lot of my family and friends live there too. It is my second home, and I will always support it because it is the only guaranteed safe space for Jews.”
This past year has been difficult on LMU’s campus in regard to Israel. Rachel explains,
“People are less willing to hear different perspectives. The biggest struggle is getting people to broaden their views and simply come and listen to us.”
“Over the last year more students on our campus have become less tolerant of having a pro-Israel club on our campus. Oftentimes they tear down our posters or make rude comments when they walk past our tables. Since its become so normalized and accepted to be aggressively anti-Israel, a lot of students have felt the need to hide that they are pro-Israel.”
Thankfully, with Juliette and Rachel’s leadership, they have made the strong choice to start a Students Supporting Israel chapter at LMU. Juliette explains,
“After the rise of anti-Zionism this past year we decided to make our pro-Israel club at LMU an SSI chapter. We wanted to do this because we felt being a part of a global organization with other students who are dealing with the same issues on campus as us would make us feel less alone. SSI has also provided us with so many resources that we never have even thought of. It is very reassuring to know that we have an entire movement of people to help us in any way so that we can continue our Israel activism on our campus.”
They have already made themselves known on campus. A few weeks ago, SSI at LMU hosted Hussein Aboubakr to share about how his story relates to “Antisemitism in the Arab World.” With their backgrounds and passions, they desire to bring various events on campus that will encourage education. Juliette shares their plan.
“Our main goal is to have as many events that educate students on our campus about Zionism and what it means to have a Jewish State. We want to host speakers that talk about the religious, ethnic, and historic ties the Jewish people have to Israel because most people on our campus do not know that there is one. One of the events we are planning on hosting next semester is a Mizrahi and Sephardi night because most students on our campus only know about Ashkenazi Jews because that is all they see in the media. We want to educate and provide a perspective about Israel that most students have never been given.”
We are grateful for the strong leadership we have at LMU and are looking forward to the future of Students Supporting Israel at LMU!