Instead of being the home to the New England Patriots and New England Revolution, Gillette Stadium acted as the host to Israel Summit East. This past Presidents Day weekend, leaders from across college campuses from around the East Coast came together to discuss some of the most crucial topics in the Jewish world. Israel Summit East was headlined by speakers Robert Kraft, Congressman Richie Torres and Noa Tishby.
Kraft, Torres and Tishby all gave keynotes around topics related to Jewish life on campus in tackling antisemitism. Kraft, a Brookline native and owner of the Patriots and New England Revolution, has a long history of Jewish philanthropy. During a Patriots game last season, Kraft helped sponsor an advertisement encouraging people to stand up to antisemitism. Kraft, whose speech was greeted with a standing ovation, mentioned the necessity of standing up to all forms of hate. In particular, Kraft stressed the importance of fighting antisemitism the same way we should be fighting any sort of hate. The idea of standing collectively against hate was a major theme throughout Israel Summit East’s duration.
Along with key speakers, students were given access to theme-based master classes on topics ranging from antisemitism education to being a Jewish influencer on social media. Each class consisted of an expert leading a group discussion in their field, usually followed by some sort of small group activity. While in small groups, students would brainstorm ways to apply what they learned back at their college campuses.
Josh Fontak, a sophomore finance major from Bentley University, had this to say about the Israel Summit: “The summit was an incredible experience to be surrounded by such bright-minded peers all joined with a common goal, to fight antisemitism. It was invaluable.” Students were also given enough free time to meet and play Jewish geography with other participants.
Notably, an outstanding part of Israel Summit East was seeing the abundance of different representation from college campuses. Overall 250 students manage to participate in the summit. With a percentage of these students coming from outside the New England area, many students had to fly and take multiple modes of transportation just to get to the summit.
Another outstanding aspect of the summit was the non-Jewish representation. Some of the speakers, such as Ritchie Torres, as well as student non-Jewish participants, made time to participate in the summit. All too often, Jewish problems are seen inherently as just Jewish problems. Having upstanders for the Jewish community was deeply appreciated. As a result, many of my fellow students who participated in the summit felt that seeing non-Jewish representation was one of the highlights of the summit as a whole.
Originally starting as an online event, Israel Summit East is the second conference to be put on by Hillel of this type. Early this year, Hillel International organized a similar event on the West Coast. We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to participate in in-person conferences with peers again.
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