Put a bunch of US college students who love Israel in a room together and what do you get? Six fabulous digital projects that have been attracting attention to Israel and ISRAEL21c for the last eight months.

Earlier this month, ISRAEL21c held its third Digital Ambassador Retreat, this time in San Francisco, to give students from colleges including UCLA, Arizona State University, Indiana University, Binghamton University, University of Florida and UC Berkeley, an opportunity to showcase and win prizes for projects they have been working on since August last year.

Among the projects created by the students is Tech21cIL, a social-media sub-brand of ISRAEL21c focusing on Israel’s technological advancements; Israel Topics for You, which drives traffic to ISRAEL21c via Instagram and Facebook, geared to Jewish high school students; and West Coast Cards, which created and printed cards to be distributed on US campuses featuring stories from ISRAEL21c.

The winning project was Peace of the Puzzle, an interactive puzzle that went live on ISRAEL21c last month. Viewers click on parts of Israel to find out more about humanitarian aid organizations in the country.

The puzzle, which includes organizations like Save a Child’s Heart and IsraAID, was created by students Fanya Donin, Matt Stein, Michael Vivier, Gabrielle Weiss and Oriya Romano, and has already received over a thousand page views.

The winning team pose with some of the judges at the retreat. From left (top row): Matt Stein; Michael Vivier; ISRAEL21c President Amy Friedkin; Anita Friedman, president of the Koret Foundation; Gabrielle Weiss; Fanya Donin. (Below) Investor and philanthropist Adean Golub; Ravit Baer, Deputy Consul General at the Consulate General of Israel; and Rachel Poulin, ISRAEL21c Outreach Coordinator of the ambassador program. Photo by Nicky Blackburn

Second prize went to the 18+ Guide to Israel, which uses Facebook and Instagram to provide insider travel tips to Israel for 18- to 35-year-olds.

An honorable mention went to a project that highlights the ISRAEL21c ambassadors themselves in a series of popular articles that appear on our site.

Judges for the competition were Adean Golub, a technology investor and philanthropist; Ravit Baer, deputy consul general at the Consulate General of Israel; Anita Friedman, president of the Koret Foundation; Omer Malchin, founder and CEO of Moxie; and Ben Lang, cofounder of MapMe, who now works at Spoke.

Inspired and impressed

“The group of judges had a difficult time because we were very inspired and impressed that you brought such intelligence, skill, expertise and heart to your projects,” Friedman told ambassadors at the event, at the San Mateo Marriott Hotel.

“You could be doing a lot of other things, but you chose this, and I can’t think of anything more important. We appreciate that, and need you on the front lines to deepen pro-Israel understanding, and to reach out to new audiences who don’t have the information and knowledge to know what Israel is about. We are grateful to you and ISRAEL21c.”

From left, ISRAEL21c Digital Ambassadors Joey Kirsch, Jeremy Rosenberg, Kaitlyn Sheinhartz, Molly Heller and Sasha Sherman. Photo by Nicky Blackburn

“All six campaign presentations surpassed my expectations,” said Digital Ambassador Outreach and Engagement Coordinator Rachel Poulin. “I was very impressed with what every team was able to accomplish over the past eight months.

“Thanks to this ambassador team as a collective, ISRAEL21c has generated tens of thousands of new views to the website, hundreds of new newsletter subscribers, and hundreds of thousands of new social-media engagements/impressions.

“Together, our ambassadors are changing the way that people know and perceive Israel — not only in their own networks, but also in countless online communities that reach diverse audiences across the globe,” she added.

ISRAEL21c launched its Digital Ambassador project in the US five years ago. Students taking part learn vital strategic communications and social-media tools. The first retreat was held in Chicago in January 2018, and was followed with another retreat, also in Chicago, in August last year.

From left to right, Daniel Silver, Dio Baldonado, and Alyssa Harris. Photo by Nicky Blackburn

The program has been enormously successful, with the student ambassadors creating new and exciting digital projects for ISRAEL21c, while at the same time deepening their own relationship with Israel.

This year, 36 students took part in the program, two of whom worked with ISRAEL21c’s Spanish site.

“We feel empowered,” said Matt Stein, a student from Indiana University. “We were given all the tools we need to accomplish what we want to do for this organization. And we are proud of what we have done and what we have achieved.”

“My favorite part of the ambassador program, aside from getting out the message about Israel, is being able to come together with all the ambassadors and meet them in person, learn with them and strategize,” said Sarah Winkelman, a student at Arizona State University. “I learned so much about social media and how to navigate through it.”

The students who took part in ISRAEL21c’s third Digital Ambassadors Retreat. Photo by Nicky Blackburn

“I always learn something new when I open up the home page of ISRAEL21c,” said Luke Whartnaby, from Pepperdine University. “I had no idea about the amount of opportunities in technology or research in Israel. The program has given me a lot of valuable skills in terms of promoting and using social-media platforms.”

Financial support for the retreat was provided by Susan and Moses Libitzky, the Koret Foundation, the Rodan Family Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

If you’d like to apply to become a Digital Ambassador for the August 2019-May 2020 cohort, please click here.