The David Project
|Motto||Educating Voices for Israel|
The David Project, is a pro-Israel non-profit located in Boston, Massachusetts. The David Project's stated aim is "to positively shape campus opinion on Israel by educating, training, and empowering student leaders to be thoughtful, strategic and persuasive advocates" through relational advocacy It was founded in 2002 by Charles Jacobs, who served as its president until August 2008. David Bernstein, previously Program Director of American Jewish Committee (AJC), began leading The David Project in July 2010. In September 2014, Phillip Brodsky became Executive Director.
From the website of The David Project, "The David Project positively shapes campus opinion on Israel by educating, training, and empowering student leaders to be thoughtful, strategic and persuasive advocates" through relational advocacy. The David Project focuses on building student partnerships and helping Israel groups reach out to their peers to talk about Israel.
- Israel Uncovered – 10-day Israel mission for The David Project's Core Schools. Each school sends one Israel advocate and two to three non-Jewish campus leaders. The campus leaders represent many mainstream campus groups, including: student government, College Democrats and Republicans, fraternities and sororities, black, Indian, Latino and Asian student unions, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and other religious organizations, Women's rights groups, LGBT clubs, environmental clubs and more.
- Summer Seminars – four-day Israel education, activism and leadership seminars
- Campus Support – Regional campus coordinators work closely with students to develop and implement effective strategies for Israel activism
- "Israel & the Middle East: The Conflict in Context" curriculum for Jewish high school students
- "People, Place and Self: The Jewish Connection to Israel" for Jewish day schools and supplemental schools, grades 8–12
The David Project is the first Israel advocacy organization to be recognized as one of the top 50 innovative Jewish organizations in America by Slingshot. Will Schneider, Executive Director of Slingshot said, “The groundbreaking organizations that we highlight in the Slingshot Guide are game-changers in the realms of community engagement, social justice impact, and religious and spiritual life. The Slingshot Guide is not just a book listing organizations doing interesting things; it’s a resource relied upon by doers and donors alike. It’s the framework for a community that through the collaboration that results from inclusion in the Guide, becomes something significantly more effective than what each of the individual organizations can achieve on their own.”
Excerpt from Slingshot ’13-’14 National Guide: “The David Project serves as an example of how an organization can dramatically change its activities to better serve its mission without sacrificing a deeply rooted ideology. Many college students dislike hard-nosed tactics and voices that add to the divisive nature of Israel-focused conversation on campus. Because of this, The David Project has shifted course by revamping its strategies to reflect a more relevant model of Israel engagement on campus, and now more effectively shapes positive opinions of Israel among key campus stakeholders across North America. Instead of challenging Israel’s detractors with forceful talking points that might prove counterproductive, The David Project focuses on peer engagement skills, helping students develop personal connections with Israel and promoting discourse about Israel through existing campus networks. Operating with a concentration on depth of connections rather than breadth, The David Project works directly with students and Israel groups on a scaled-back number of campuses in order to more strategically focus efforts with the greatest potential for impact. The organization has also realigned both its staff and financial resources to maximize impact. Slingshot evaluators are excited about The David Project’s willingness to take risks in service to its cause, and praise the organization’s use of thoughtful measurement tools to assess the future efficacy of these risks. Evaluators commend the organization on aligning its tactics with the needs of today’s college students. One evaluator writes, ‘Rather than worrying about committed advocates and arming them for ‘battle,’ The David Project is trying to bring new people into the discussion in a way that presents the complexity of Israel and will therefore be more of an entry point for real engagement.’”
The Forgotten Refugees
|Jewish exodus from|
Arab and Muslim
The David Project and IsraTV produced the documentary film The Forgotten Refugees in 2005. The film "explores the history and destruction of Middle Eastern Jewish communities, some of which had existed for over 2,500 years. It chronicles the impact of the Arab Muslim conquest, the development of Judeo-Arab culture, and the modern rise of Arab nationalism that drove out hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes and communities."
The film has been screened at numerous film festivals, winning the "Best Featured Documentary" at the Warsaw Jewish Film Festival in 2006 and "Best Documentary Film" at the 2007 Marbella International Film Festival.
The rights to The Forgotten Refugees film are now owned by JIMENA: JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa).
In 2004, the David Project produced a documentary film entitled Columbia Unbecoming. The purpose of the film was to respond to Columbia University's Middle East studies program that, according to the organization, prevented "free and open [academic] inquiry." The film featured the testimony of "students charging that they were intimidated and harassed by professors" in order to give "voice to students who have experienced incidents of academic abuse and intimidation" at the school. Ultimately, "the goal of the film was to alert Columbia University to the issue so that they could resolve it internally" since "students could not lodge complaints through the appropriate channels at Columbia." Opponents of film characterized it as "academic intimidation" and an attempt to stifle open academic debate, although the David Project argued that "the video supports academic freedom by exposing the suppression of dissenting views in the classroom."
The contents of the film spurred Columbia's President Lee Bollinger to create an ad hoc faculty committee in order to address student charges "that they were being intimidated by faculty members and being excluded from participating fully in classroom discussions because of their views." While the committee's findings did not lead to any broad-based change in university policy, Columbia Professor Joseph Massad was criticized for inappropriate classroom conduct in an incident in which he reportedly yelled at a student, "If you're going to deny the atrocities being committed against Palestinians, then you can get out of my classroom!"
The David Project was instrumental in pressuring Harvard University to reject funds from Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, ruler of the United Arab Emirates, who funded and lent his name to an anti-American, anti-Semitic think-tank based in Abu Dhabi. The campaign, led by The David Project's Rachel Fish and her student supporters, contributed to Zayed's decision to shut down the Zayed Center in August 2003, saying that it "had engaged in a discourse that starkly contradicted the principles of interfaith tolerance."
In July 2004, the campaign concluded when Harvard decided to reject the $2.5 million donation from the Sheikh "in light of the Zayed Center's having promoted activities in evident conflict with the purposes of the gift." Through her activist work, Rachel Fish was named one of the "Forward Fifty," a list of the 50 most influential Jews in America, in 2003.
- "The David Project (home page)". The David Project. January 2014.
- The David Project Website
- The David Project | Israel on Campus Coalition
- The Forgotten Refugees Website
- 2006 Awards | Warsaw Jewish Film Festival
- Film Awards 2007 | Marbella International Film Festival
- About | Columbia Unbecoming Website
- "The Mideast Comes to Columbia," March 16, 2005 | The Nation
- "Ad Hoc Grievance Committee Report," March 28, 2005 | Columbia News
- "Harvard to return $2.5m given by Arab president," July 28, 2004 | The Boston Globe
- Harvard Returns Gift to Arab President," July 30, 2004 | The Harvard Crimson
- "Forward 50," Nov. 14, 2003 | The Forward