Get to know Aviva Rosenschein
Q: How did you get involved in campus activism?
Do you want the long answer or the short answer? I come from a family of activists. My parents were at the forefront for many years defending the American Jewish community against antisemitism in the traditional sense and later when it morphed into the form of anti-Zionism. I guess you can say it was in my blood to be an activist. My first form of activism on my own came about in college when I was in class with a professor who was sharing extreme anti-Israel rhetoric and forcing the class to read and view heavily biased books and films against Israel. I published an article in the UMass Amherst Daily Collegian noting the inaccuracies that were shared within the class and sharing my disappointment in the professor who took advantage of her position to manipulate her students. Soon after, my eldest brother told me about CAMERA as he thought it was an organization that would interest me, and the rest is history.
Q: Tell us about the importance of defending Israel on campus and the sorts of things that students are experiencing.
If we want to make change, we must be willing to do it ourselves. We cannot depend on others or expect others do it for us. If the Jewish community and Zionist community (which includes Jews and non-Jews) do not speak up when injustices occur against us or when misinformation and lies are spread against our community, then our silence is submission. Our silence is telling the rest of the university community that what was said in the classroom, or by the recently invited guest speaker, or the article in the newspaper was correct. At most universities, you can find at least one professor that shares a biased perspective against Israel in the classroom, which may include leaving Israel out on maps of the Middle East, referring to Israel as a colonialist state, or recommending extreme sources as legitimate reading materials when studying the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the campus sphere, Zionist students have been referred to by their peers as “white supremacists,” have been targeted as the reason for why tuition costs are high, and have even been boycotted by numerous student registered organizations on campus that have pledged to not dialogue or co-sponsor events with student clubs who openly support Israel. Our connection to the land of Israel is constantly called into question. Open support for terrorists and terrorist activity, such as the intifadas, is routinely seen on campus. And some university newspapers refuse to publish articles in support of Israel, blocking the students’ rights to freedom of speech and calling into question the journalistic integrity of these student editors. In an age where “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” are now normally provided to ensure no demographic or minority community feels targeted, discriminated against, or just plain uncomfortable, antisemitism is growing and thriving.
Q: What sort of work do you do at CAMERA? What’s your day like?
It depends on the time of year, but mostly I’m in constant contact with my staff in the US, UK, and Israel, providing guidance and suggestions to share with our CAMERA Fellows and the board members of the independent Israel clubs that we support via our CAMERA on Campus Coalition. I review all of the articles written by our CAMERA Fellows and by my staff before they are submitted for publication. Everything the CAMERA Fellows write must meet the standard of CAMERA, ensuring everything is factually correct with sources and written clearly for the average reader to understand. Along with holding their own educational events, the CAMERA Fellows and Coalition members attend events held by the opposing opinion on Israel. The Fellows primarily will publish articles about these events, providing their campus community with another perspective and correcting the misinformation that was disseminated by these guest lecturers. Each year, our programs shift a bit, adjusting according to the needs of the students and the changing atmosphere on the university campus. I make sure that our department is on top of these changes and is providing the resources that the students need, providing a ground-up or grassroots approach versus a top-down approach. All of our materials, infographics, booklets, campaigns, guest speakers, and the topics that they address have been developed based on the many conversations with students and research done on the current campus climate. What may have worked ten years ago may not work today.
Q: What inspires you?
It’s not easy to be an outspoken Israel supporter on college campuses today. It’s not easy even just being an Israeli on some campuses. Most students want to attend university because they are excited to finally live on their own, meet new friends, choose the classes that they want to study, and participate in clubs so that they can make a difference and provide some good to this world. The fact that the Israel clubs and Zionist students are really the only ones who can’t celebrate their culture without being under attack is extremely upsetting. All these university students who decide to apply for the CAMERA Fellowship or decide to start an Israel club and be a leader — they inspire me every day and keep me doing what I’ve been doing for the last 12 years. So many of these students are being put into difficult positions, their grades are at risk, they’ve lost friends, and they sadly know that there are certain causes and clubs that they cannot participate in because of the biases held against them for being in support of Israel. Every year, it seems like the situation on campuses becomes more difficult, but every year there are hundreds and hundreds of university students eager to learn and help educate others about the real Israel. There is nothing more inspiring than that.
Q: What do you love about working for CAMERA?
I find myself incredibly fortunate that I found a job that matched not only my majors in university, journalism and Judaic studies (a feat in itself), but is also a job that is fulfilling and rewarding. Not everyone can honestly say that they believe that their work is making a difference. Every day, I get to continue to learn from my colleagues and from my students and engage in thoughtful and constructive discussions and debates.
Q: If you could have dinner with any person dead or living, who would it be? How come?
Within the world of Israel, I would choose to have dinner with Yehuda Avner. In the more general arena, the top three people I would like to have dinner with (who are still living) are David Attenborough, Ed Stafford, and Dave Chappelle. Do you have any connections?
Q: If you could improve the coverage of one news outlet, which would it be? Why?
This may not sound so unique, but hands down, I would want to improve the coverage of the NY Times. To most people, the NY Times is a highly respectable newspaper and is their go-to news outlet to learn about current, national, and international issues. The fact they permit inaccurate pieces about Israel to be published and some extreme works, bordering on the line of antisemitism and sometimes even crossing that line, is terribly disappointing and in my opinion is doing a disservice to the American public.
Q: When you’re not working for CAMERA, what do you do for fun? What’s your idea of happiness?
My idea of happiness is spending time with my family and friends, lying on a beach or by the Jordan River, with a glass of white wine in one hand and a good book in another.