Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Jake Suster
First person 

Knights for Israel honored at Camera Gala 2018

 

Knights for Israel members (l-r): Emily Aspinwall, Sam Busey, Jake Suster, Jesse Benjamin Slomowitz and Benji Osterman, accepted the David Bar-Ilan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism.

This year, UCF's Knights for Israel was honored with the David Bar-Ilan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism. This award signified a tremendous amount of accomplishments for the organization. When CAMERA called with the great news, we understood why we were being awarded. The fact of the matter is that our presence on campus, as well as the work we do advocating, educating and celebrating the state of Israel, is effective in making the University of Central Florida arguably the most pro-Israel college in the country.

Two years ago, KFI had faced Students for Justice in Palestine and their notorious Israeli-Apartheid Week. We answered with our own Israel Peace Week. That week was a huge success as we contested SJP's "die-in" with our own demonstration calling out their members for their lies. KFI had so much student involvement that there was never a dull moment. Our event was such a success that we made an annual tradition out of it, while at the same time, there hasn't been a single sign of SJP on our campus or anything about the dishonest Israeli-Apartheid Week.

While we did earn this award for the work we've done in past years, this was more about the future, especially for the underclassmen that have had immense involvement these past two years. Their involvement this past year has been the greatest factor in our success, and in their eyes, they are not looking to lose that momentum. They are only striving to improve this wonderful organization. It speaks volumes that we went from an executive board of four students this past year to a board of 12 students (almost all of the applicants had applied just finishing their first year at UCF).

First year UCF student Emily Aspinwall is just one of the many incredible stories that made this award so meaningful. Entering UCF, she never saw herself being involved with Israel advocacy, and had no Jewish background. When she approached Knights for Israel, a mutual friend asked if she could help table for community service. We allowed her to volunteer in return for community service, and through her volunteer work she only became more and more interested in learning about Israel. It wasn't long until she started coming to all of our events, intrigued to educate herself. She eventually entered into a leadership role, attending AIPAC as part of our delegation, leading events, and after only one year she will begin the Fall of 2018 as the vice president of KFI and UCF's newest CAMERA Fellow.

After attending the Gala, she said, "This gala has inspired me to work towards being a better member of our now award-winning club, Knights for Israel. I felt at home with those who shared my aspirations of creating better Israel advocacy areas on and off campus with those I am proud to call my friends. I am honored to be a member of such a hard-working and inspirational club, and as my university's CAMERA fellow next year, I will strive to continue the message of advocacy and inclusivity Knights for Israel brings."

What this honor meant to me as a leader was truly life changing. To earn this award during my one year of presidency, I can't imagine a stronger note on which to end. While I will no longer be president of Knights for Israel, I will continue to do my part in making sure our success continues for years to come. The student involvement we possessed this year indicates to me that the organization will be in great hands and that Israel and I have nothing to worry about at UCF.

 

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