Jewish student communities on college campuses are a critical building block for sustaining long-term, vibrant Jewish life. The college years are a formative time in the development of young people’s identity and intellectual maturity, and campus Jewish communities provide students with social, spiritual and educational settings to explore and enhance their Jewish identity, discover new dimensions of their faith, and put their Jewish values into practice as they contribute to their campus community.
In the past decade, we have seen campuses around the world become a key arena for anti-Israel activists who seek to infuse the next generation with their hatred of the Jewish state. As a result, at some universities, students’ arrival on campus brings with it their first encounters with delegitimization, an effort to brand Israel with a label of heinous contemporary evil in order to strip its legitimacy as a nation state.
The Rose Project emerged from the need for a strong, unified, local initiative to counter delegitimization taking place at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). With concern rising within the Orange County Jewish community over uncivil, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic discourse, the Rose Project Leadership Council first convened in 2008 to establish a strategic framework and comprehensive response, with the goals of creating a partnership with the university that would bring about a more respectful campus environment and a robust support network for UCI’s Jewish students.
We engage in open, constructive dialogue with university administrators and provide Jewish students with the best Israel education, advocacy training and leadership development opportunities available. At the same time, we invest heavily in Jewish student life. Together with Jewish campus organizations, including our Community Partner, Hillel Foundation of Orange County and its campus programs at UCI, as well as Chapman University and California State University, Fullerton; Chabad of UCI; AEPi fraternity and others, we work to create a rich environment where students can explore and deepen their Jewish and pro-Israel identities through a wide range of social, political, religious, spiritual and cultural experiences. Finally, we engage the broader community on issues pertaining to Israel in order to create an informed public with a sense of connectedness to the Jewish state.
Together with our local, regional and national partners, the Rose Project has radically changed campus dynamics in Orange County by engaging in positive, proactive advocacy, advancing the Jewish student experience, and supporting programs and activities that change the dialogue about Israel on campus.