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

Local StandWithUs interns for '19-'20


August 30, 2019

StandWithUs, an international, nonprofit Israel education organization founded in 2001, recently selected Samantha Gabbai, a senior at Winter Park High School, for the StandWithUs High School Internship program 2019-2020. Danielle Garsten was selected as SWU’s Emerson Fellow at UCF.

The StandWithUs High School Internship Program is a high school leadership program that prepares students for the challenges they may face regarding Israel in college and in their communities. Students in both the HS Internship and Emerson Fellows attend two conferences—a training one in August (which was just completed) and SWU’s “Israel in Focus” International Conference in January. Both are held in Los Angeles. 

Upon completion of the program, participants will be prepared to comfortably take the reins of leadership while in high school, and the moment they start college. They also will be automatically part of the StandWithUs alumni network.

Gabbai was one of the 98 students selected this year from across the U.S. and Canada for the high school internship program. She is president of her BBYO chapter and attended the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program and said this about her experience: “Throughout these six weeks I have found such a greater understanding of my own Jewish identity. I have been asking challenging questions that really made me learn where I stand as not only an Israeli Jew, but an individual. It’s truly been eye opening and powerful.

“In Israel, I found that my passion was not about pursuing a career in medicine as I previously thought; it was about international relations and standing up for and speaking out for what I truly believe in.”

Gabbai accepted the SWU internship to learn more about “a place I call home.” She wants to impart what she learned about Israel’s history and current events to others.

“At the SWU HS Internship Conference I was focusing on gaining a better knowledge about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict because seeing it from both perspectives is very important and arguing without facts won’t get you anywhere.”

As a SWU intern, Gabbai has the access and tools to implement a new social media project she started with a fellow intern, Abigail Adams from Charlotte Latin School in Charlotte, N.C. The project is called “Why I Wear My Star” and is set up on Instagram and Facebook. She and Adams planned posts, programs and ideas for the project while at the conference.

“This project gives Jewish people the platform to talk about why they are proud to be a Jew in today’s world and share some anti-Semitic acts they may have encountered. I can’t wait to see everything that comes of it,” she said.

The project can be seen at http://www.facebook.com/WhyIWearMyStarOfficial and http://www.instagram.com/whyiwearmystar.

At Winter Park High School, Gabbai plans to have Holocaust survivors address the whole school and make some presentations during her World Religion class.

Danielle Garsten, a senior at UCF, is from Parkland and graduated from Stoneman Douglas High School in 2017. Her major is computer engineering and she is involved with Knights For Israel at UCF.

As the Emerson Fellow, Garsten hopes to connect students with what they are passionate about, and through their majors “infuse Israel education into it.” She also hopes to compare her peer’s culture/roots with Israel’s and “show how their history and Israel’s has intertwined and been defined until now.”

She continued, “With the constant animosity against Israelis and Jewish people, I hope to at least bring some good and compassion to this world and alleviate that hate on campus and community.”

The SWU Emerson Fellowship Conference was an all-encompassing experience for Garsten, jam-packed with informational sessions to show students how to be proactive on campus.

“It is unsettling how much BDS there is on campus[es] throughout the U.S. but we, as students, have the power to overturn that ideology for our schools. Listening to the inspirational stories told by fellow students and staff gave me the confidence to pursue peaceful action on my campus.”

For more information about the internship program, please email highschool@standwithus.com.


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