Student Spotlights: Zahava Fortinsky and Shira Mammon

Meet Zahava Fortinsky and Shira Mammon, co-presidents of Students Supporting Israel at Ryerson University! Zahava is studying Graphic Communications Management, and Shira is in nursing school. Zionism is embedded in both of their identities and is at the forefront of their minds. According to Zahava,

“Zionism plays a massive role in my activism on campus. Firstly, I must defend what Zionism means as many fellow students are misinformed or unaware. Also, students challenge the right for Israel to exist and the right for the Jewish people to have a homeland in Israel. With my advocacy and knowledge of Zionism and Israel, I hope I can prove and support that the Jewish people have the right to their homeland and bring more awareness to other students on campus.”

Shira explains that more recently there is a big need to “explain to people that antizionism is antisemitism and so this has been included into our activism as well.”

A common struggle on campuses across the country is misinformation in regard to Israel. Zahava explains the situation on her campus,

“A struggle on campus is that many students are misinformed about Israel. For example, when the conflict occurred last year, many fellow students of mine were sharing posts that they believed were factual when it was inflammatory. Another challenge has been bringing awareness to antisemitism on campus when the university doesn’t see the problem. There was a recent publication in the Ryerson University Alumni Magazine where an ad for a speaker’s series on different issues present on campus such as disability rights, Anti-Asian Racism, and combating Islamophobia are a few examples. Antisemitism was not even included on this list.”

On top of addressing misinformation, it has been difficult with the pandemic. Shira explains,

“This past year has been challenging because of Covid. With most of us not going to campus, it has been hard to reach a large number of people. We have been making use of zoom and other online formats, but the activism on campus is lacking as a result and we hope we can return back soon to get that going again!”

As it was stated earlier, Zionism is a core part of Zahava and Shira’s identity. Zahava shares her connection to Zionism.

“I have grown up in a Zionistic home and gone to Zionistic schools all my life. I have been fortunate to visit Israel as a young child and loved it from my very first visit. I spent a gap year after high school, where I learned more about the history of Israel and developed a connection to the country and the people.”

After Zahava graduates, she hopes to make Aliyah! Shira’s identity as a Jew deeply connects to Israel.

“I support Israel because it’s my home. Every Jew deserves to have a place where they feel safe and protected, and this is what so many people throughout history have fought for. It is our duty as the Jewish people to support and stand up for our home.”

Shira has been able to take on a leadership role after finding out about SSI during her first year in college. She further explains,

“When I was in my first year on campus at Ryerson, the SSI president at the time, Frankie Aviv, approached me because she thought I would be a good fit for the SSI board. I loved what SSI stood for and being able to engage with others on campus about Israel sounded like such a nice idea. Now, being the president, and having to recruit board members myself and make people aware of this amazing club, has been such a great experience.”

Zahava and Shira have been working hard planning events while facing the challenges on campus. According to Zahava,

“It’s been a very challenging year because of Covid, as we have not been on campus all year. We have had events on Zoom; however, this only reaches a limited number of students. We hope to return to campus next month and create in-person events that can engage more students and be more effective in reaching out to students who are not as informed about Israel.”

Shira echoes this sentiment. “Upon return to campus, we hope to reach a new level of students and educate Non-Jews and Jews alike about Israel and Zionism.”

As the semester will come to a close, we are looking forward to seeing all that will be accomplished at Ryerson University! To keep up with their events on Instagram, follow @ssiryerson!

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Students Supporting Israel Movement

Students Supporting Israel Movement

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