Student Spotlight: Talya Malka
Meet Talya Malka, President of Students Supporting Israel at Chapman University! She is a sophomore studying communication and is also the Chabad Shabbat Chair. After college, Talya sees herself pursuing event planning, which currently helps her plan exciting and informative SSI events!
Last May was a difficult time for many Jewish and Zionist students. Talya shares her experience and what she decided to do in response.
“During the heat of the media and war between Israel and Gaza, I felt alone on campus. I was trying my best to surround myself with my close Jewish friends to help distract myself and ease my anxiety. Every time I opened social media, my heart dropped as I kept seeing more and more of my “friends” post lies about the conflict. Once we realized how badly we were all craving a safe place on campus for us to be educated, educate, and support each other and our country, a group of students and I decided to bring SSI back to Chapman.”
Talya not only made the important decision to bring SSI back to campus, but she also comes with years of her own experience and connection to Israel. This combination of bravery and personal experience creates a strong Students Supporting Israel chapter at Chapman University. She shares,
“Both of my parents were born and raised in Israel. Hebrew was my first language as a first-generation American being raised by 2 Israelis, and to this day is the only language my parents speak to me in. My childhood home was always filled with other Israelis, the Israeli news is on 24/7 so we can always know what is going on, my mom only cooks Israeli food, and I visit Israel for around 2 months every year to see my extended family that lives there. I have also gone to a Jewish school my entire elementary-high school education where I was given the opportunity to learn about Israel’s history and even take a class trip there and experience Israel from a completely different perspective than I have ever had.”
Talya describes her campus as apathetic when it comes to Israel, and she also explains the challenges in recruiting students as well as the personal struggle she faces.
“Something I have noticed when attempting to recruit is that people feel embarrassed and tend to hide their Zionism to avoid controversy, which to me only makes me want to work harder and recruit more people to join our club. Attending such a small university, with just under 10,000 students, everyone knows everyone. I had people unfollow me the second they heard I was SSI president, I have lost friends, and I have made new ones, even though it is a struggle to not just give up and leave it to someone else so my name won’t be the stem of controversy, I feel like this position is my responsibility and if I am not proud of it, how can I expect the rest of my board and chapter to be?”
Talya speaks with resilience, which describes the story of her people. She not only speaks up for herself, but she empowers the rest of her board to be proud and strong. As 2021 comes to an end, Talya reflects on how she led her SSI board.
“This year my goal was to educate and familiarize my chapter with facts and history. I wanted them to feel comfortable standing up for themselves when being attacked and seeing false information being spread.”
A key component of SSI events at large is to have quality content present along with delicious food and fun. Talya brings this combination together and is looking forward to the spring semester.
“A goal I have that I want to achieve with my chapter this year is to get each member excited about Israel and celebrate it with a Yom Haatzmaut celebration where the members can share their family stories on how they got to Israel, indulge in some Israeli food, and learn about the War of Independence.”
Talya has a clear grasp on what Zionism is, how it affects her life, and how it is woven into her Israel activism at Chapman University.
“I believe in order to have Zionism play into anything, it is important to know what it means and understand it. Being a Zionist does not make you anti-anyone or anything, it just makes you a supporter of giving the Jewish people a safe country and understanding Israel’s right to exist. Having Zionists on campus and continuing to spread Zionism is so important to help create a safe space for Jewish students. The feeling of being surrounded by people who hate you or your country is terrifying and makes you feel so alone regardless of how many Israel supporters or Jews there are on campus, so by being an activist, I believe it creates a much more welcoming and safe environment for everyone on campus.
We are grateful for the strength Talya has in her activism, and look forward to 2022 with SSI at Chapman University!