As a Tufts University student for the past four years, Ben Shapiro was one of the most prominent leaders on campus. Whether as co-president of Tufts Friends of Israel or a fellow with the education organization StandWithUs, Shapiro made a name for himself as an Israel advocate, activist against antisemitism and public speaker.
Following his “virtual” graduation last month, Shapiro decided to take his leadership lessons and turn them into a “mini fellowship” for students returning to campus and fellow recent graduates. Working with CJP’s Israel Campus Roundtable, Shapiro created YallaLIVE, an interactive webinar series focused on “innovative ideas” in the Jewish world from pioneering student leaders.
“Students don’t have much going on over the summer with so many cancellations,” said Shapiro. “They’re asking themselves, ‘What do I do right now?’ That’s what inspired me to take on this project for the community.”
To help students stay active this summer and possibly start their own projects, Shapiro will host eight sessions with movers and shakers representing many aspects of Jewish life. Topics include political mobilizing in the 2020 election and “combatting antisemitism,” said Shapiro.
For one session, the founder of MeetJew, a new social and dating platform, will present on “the future of Jewish social life,” said Shapiro, who called that subject ripe for innovation on a macro scale.
“We have a whole swath of topics of interest to Jewish and pro-Israel students,” said Shapiro. “With much of the world on pause right now, what better time to dive deeply into important areas that might be seldom discussed?”
An alum of Birthright Israel in 2018, Shapiro more recently traveled with Boston-area students on a CJP trip to the Netherlands and Germany to preserve Holocaust memory. As a fellow of Together, Restoring Their Names, he educated participants about Holocaust memorialization and was featured in a video for Jewish Life Television documenting the trip.
Because of his experience with the Holocaust memory fellowship, Shapiro is incorporating a session with Together, Restoring Their Names founder Elan Kawesch, a recent graduate of Brandeis University, into the YallaLIVE mini fellowship. There are also sessions planned to explore Zionism from an interfaith perspective and the importance of “visibility and presence on campus.”
Shapiro’s involvement with CJP started with the Intercampus Leadership Committee in 2017. During his three years in the group, he interfaced with pro-Israel students from a dozen campuses to bring the Boston community closer together.
Beyond the commitment to participate in the YallaLIVE mini fellowship, students will create reflections on their experiences with Israel and they will advise incoming college students.
“This webinar series is [also] about students creating content and getting their own networks engaged,” said Shapiro. Demonstrating the appeal of the new project, over 70 students applied for spots in just the first week.