Noa Dar was born in Israel and raised in America. The 19-year-old University of Maryland, College Park, freshman considers herself an Israeli-American. Last weekend, more than 300 Israeli-American college students, including Dar, gathered in Los Angeles for the Israeli-American Council's second annual Mishelanu National Conference.
"It was actually really great. There were a lot of very interesting lectures and a lot of very interesting people to talk to," said Dar.
Mishelanu, Hebrew for "one of us", is IAC's college leadership program. Dar said that learning how active other chapters around the country made her want to make the branch at her university bigger.
"The second I got back I was just so interested in expanding Mishelanu and making so many events," Dar said. Working with the Jewish Agency's Israel fellow at Hillel, she is already planning an IAC Mishelanu trip to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington.
IAC Mishelanu has doubled the number of participants from last year. It has 1,000 students involved on 94 campuses in 14 states, according to IAC co-founder and CEO Shoham Nicolet. He said the conference attendance has also doubled from last year, with a waiting list of students from across the country.
The energy Dar dispayed upon her return from the conference is an example of how Israeli-American students are asserting themselves on campus, including reaching out to the non-Israeli and non-Jewish community, according to Nicolet.
He cited as examples a Berkeley alumnus who launched a course on Israeli innovation that drew students from around the world; and a student in New York who created a volunteer project to help the homeless.
The apolitical nature of IAC MIshelanu is a key to sucess, Nicolet said.
"This is why it grows so quickly- because we don't need to tell them you need to think x, y to be a part of this organization. You do not need to be pro-Israel," he said.
The conference's theme was Made in Israel, featuring Israeli innovations from the high-tech sector. There was also a stimulation of a boycott, divestment and sanctions movement case, invluding training on how to fight for Israel on social media.
"[The training helped] us learn how to explain our side and make sure we know how to defend our opinions and not just say random stuff, whatever comes to mind," explained Dar. "It was helpung us learn what the situaton is and how to explain it to others."
She added, "The conference was talking about how there is opposition and anti-Semitism on campuses and teaching us how to deal with it and how to explain our side. Because a lot of people on campus are just so misinformed about the topic.