Nearly eight years ago, Israel and the Jewish world were jolted by the second intifada, which unplugged a new wave of Palestinian violence against Israel, and along with it, a new wave of media bias against Israel.
While many supporters of Israel simply bemoaned the unfair treatment Israel was receiving in the media, others chose to fight it.
A handful of Los Angeles Jews, members of Temple Beth Am, a Conservative synagogue, rose to the occasion and formed StandWithUs, originally a grassroots organization aimed at providing information and education about Israel, and countering the misinformation on air, in print and online.
One of those concerned grassoots Jews was Roz Rothstein, now the international director of StandWithUs. It has grown into an organization with an annual budget of $3 million and chapters in many cities and countries Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, Israel, the UK and Australia. And soon if Yona Eshkenazi has her way in Colorado.
The recent LA-Denver transplant, grew up at Temple Beth Am in LA, where her father, Rabbi Joel Rembaum, is the spiritual leader. Eshkenazi is working to start a StandWithUs chapter in her new, adopted hometown of Denver.
The way Israel is portrayed in the media and on college campuses hit Eshkenazi personally when she was a student at University of California-Davis. That schools Hillel held a Yom Haatzmaut Israel Independence Day celebration, which was immediately followed by Palestine Day. The exhibit featured large photographs of Israeli oppression of Palestinians and the dissemination of anti-Israel propaganda. Eshkenazi felt anger, frustration and isolation.
Then, two summers ago, during Israels war with Hezbollah, she found herself again angry and frustrated by what she was seeing and hearing on televised reports and analyses of the war.
I realized that yelling at the TV is not going to help anything, she recalls. She vowed to become an advocate for Israel.
Eshkenazi calls StandWithUs a push back against bad press and misinformation. The organization monitors the media and works at the ground level, providing education in different communities, on high school and college campuses and in libraries around the world.
StandWithUs has a speakers bureau, maintains several websites and publishes many brochures all designed to facilitate the work of pro-Israel activists as they approach the media, campuses and community groups.
StandWithUs sponsors a trip to Israel for college students through Taglit Birthright.
Even though it was started by Conservative Jews, StandWithUs is not affiliated with any Jewish religious movement, or other organization.
Eshkenazi knows she has her work cut out for her in Denver. Shes currently introducing the organization to the community, recruiting volunteers, gathering ideas and seeking support, as each StandWithUs chapter is self-funded.
If people feel the same way she does about the need to defend Israel, she urges them to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about her plans for a StandWithUs chapter here. They can also check out the organizations main website, www.StandWithUs.com.
Its our responsibility. We cant wait for someone else to do it for us.