For the past two years, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and other greater Milwaukee area schools have been fortunate enough to have Michal Makov-Peled as Israel Campus Fellow.
The goal of this program is to connect all higher education students to Israel. This happens in many ways, including engaging students in conversations about Israel and how it fits into their Jewish identity, serving as a bridge for students to the larger Milwaukee community and Israel travel opportunities and creating a space for informed Israel dialogue among the many student groups on campus.
The greater Milwaukee area has a shali’ach, or Israeli emissary — in this case Michal’s husband, Ro’ee Peled — to connect the community at large to Israel. (The couple leads the Israel Center of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.) However, college and university students are not always brought into the Milwaukee community’s Israel programs.
Students make up their own community, and classes in the Jewish studies and Hebrew studies departments are limited in their ability to educate about Israel.
Prior to Michal’s arrival, UWM students had access to Hillel Milwaukee, the Jewish student organization, but some Israel-related topics were not discussed. Yet today’s students have more questions than ever before about their Jewish identity and how it relates to a Jewish homeland.
Not only has Michal been able to put a face to the idea of Israel and the ways it is portrayed by news media and other student groups on campus, she is also able to make personal connections with students, generating interest in learning Israel facts.
Ronen Monosov is a student at UWM and president of the Jewish fraternity AEPi Milwaukee. He said Michal has “brought myself and many other students closer to their connection to Israel.”
Michal serves as a bridge between campus life and events happening in the larger Milwaukee Jewish community. She is the main contact for their Taglit Birthright trips and other Israel travel experiences, sparking student interest in visiting Israel, recruiting participants, running orientations and following up with students after their trip.
Talia Schumacher is a student at UWM and a previous peer-engagement intern at Hillel Milwaukee. She said Michal was “there for me whenever I had questions about studying abroad in Israel” and “took the time to explain to me all of the programs she thought I would be interested in.”
Some of the programs Michal has organized include the screening of “Voices From El-Sayed” last year at UWM for which she partnered with the Film Studies Department and the Student Accessibility Center.
The film was about a village in the Negev desert that has the largest percentage of deaf people in the world. For many students, this film gave a whole new perspective about diversity in Israel.
Another great program that Michal is bringing to our campus is an Israel Fellowship class that will meet for eight sessions through the spring 2014 semester. The students participating will enjoy free dinner and engage in discussion about a different topic related to Israel.
Participants will receive a stipend at the end of the program. Students are very excited about the Israel Fellowship, including UWM student Ethan Klein, who feels “students will really benefit” from this program.
Ronen, Talia, Ethan and I are just four of many students who have been affected by the presence of an Israel Campus Fellow. We have all made important personal connections with Michal and are grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to us through her position.
Although Michal’s term will be ending this summer, as Ethan best puts it, “Michal will be missed when she leaves, but I am positive that she will continue to impact the student body and me.”
Zabrina K. Tamarkin is the Israel and Overseas assistant at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, and a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee majoring in public relations and advertising and minoring in Hebrew studies.