Student leaders from across campus gathered over dinner Thursday at USC Hillel to discuss the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship at the second annual Trojan Leadership Dinner.
The dinner, organized by Trojans for Israel, served as a networking opportunity for student leaders and faculty who want to leave a positive impact on the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The evening began with an introduction by Trojans For Israel President Sarah Sax, who emphasized the strong parallels between the United States and Israel.
“Israel is a lot like America,” Sax said. “[It’s] a democracy, a leading country in innovation and a place that emphasizes equality among all.”
The similarities between the two allied nations were emphasized throughout the evening. During dinner, organizers showed a video highlighting the strength of the U.S.-Israel alliance since the nation’s inception in 1948.
David Suissa, president of the Jewish Journal, a newspaper in Los Angeles, served as the event’s guest speaker. Suissa, who is also an award-winning columnist and advocate for the Jewish Journal, began the discussion by characterizing Israel as a “messy progress.”
Suissa discussed his complicated relationship with Israel, likening it to a relationship one would share with a brother or a father. Ultimately, however, he described it as a relationship of tremendous loyalty.
“There is nothing normal about Israel,” Suissa said. “It’s not a normal country. And the more you peel back the layers, the more you realize that it’s not a normal country — not at all. And that’s a compliment, by the way. So this is my conflicted relationship with Israel. But ultimately it is a relationship that is nourished by love.”
Among the many students in attendance were Undergraduate Student Government President Mikey Geragos, USG Vice President Vinnie Prasad, USC College Republicans President Maddy Lansky and USC College Democrats President Aaron Taxy.
Looking forward, Suissa said he believes the best thing that could happen in the Middle East is if countries took advantage of some of the lessons that Israel has learned the hard way.
“I have dreams that this mess in progress can become a model for the Middle East,” Suissa said. “Because there is so much goodness in this mess — the corrective mechanism that is now going on in Israel — I would love to see that corrective mechanism in Egypt and in Libya and Syria and even in Saudi Arabia.”
Though Israel is not perfect, Suissa said it has the potential to be a role model for all Arab countries in the Middle East.
“Despite all the mistakes that Israel makes — despite the occupation, despite the fact that it hasn’t been able to achieve peace with its neighbors, despite all the things that you hear about Israel — it’s still an incredible, wonderful messy progress,” Suissa said.
Asher Levy, a freshman majoring in philosophy, politics and law, said he found the event inspiring and a reminder of the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship to the local community.
“It was really heartening to see all of these people from the USC community and the broader pro-Israel community at large come together and show support for the U.S.-Israel relationship,” said Levy. “It really shows the understanding of the fact that this is not simply a niche issue for the Jewish community and for the Israeli community, but rather this is a broader issue for all of those people who are interested in preserving ideals of democracy and freedom and of the American way.”
The remainder of the evening was devoted to questions and answers between Suissa and the audience. Students in the audience posed questions regarding everything from Israel’s perception in the media to the role the upcoming presidential election will play in the U.S.-Israel relationship.