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Annual Global Conference for Israel gathers leaders, students

Zoe+Mardiks+sits+in+the+lobby+of+the+Hyatt+Regency+Denver+during+the+annual+Jewish+National+Fund+Global+Conference+for+Israel+Nov.+30.+This+organization+kind+of+has+been+in+my+family+for+a+bit+of+time%2C+and+with+the+recent+events+going+on%2C+I+felt+like+I+needed+to+connect+more+with+other+Jewish+students%2C+Mardiks+said.
Collegian | Milo Gladstein
Zoe Mardiks sits in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Denver during the annual Jewish National Fund Global Conference for Israel Nov. 30. “This organization kind of has been in my family for a bit of time, and with the recent events going on, I felt like I needed to connect more with other Jewish students,” Mardiks said.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include the proper spelling of Nimrod Rogel’s name.

Thousands of people from all around the world convened in Denver this past weekend to attend the annual Jewish National Fund Global Conference for Israel. This year’s conference took place at the Colorado Convention Center and consisted of four days of programming that included panel discussions, workshops and summits for both high school and college students.

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The conference was organized before the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, but organizers tightened security in the lead-up to the event, citing a rise in antisemitism over the past two months, said Stefan Oberman, director of communications at JNF.

Entrances to the convention center were locked and guarded by Denver Police Department officers. Police and security were also posted inside the Hyatt Regency Denver, where attendees went through a security screening before entering the convention center through a fenced corridor across 14th Street. 

Protesters in support of Palestine gathered in the streets outside the convention center to denounce the conference and condemn Colorado Gov. Jared Polis for his support of Israel.

Polis addressed attendees alongside Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan at the opening plenary Thursday, Nov. 30, as demonstrators banged on the exterior windows of the convention center. 

Protests organized by several Colorado-based groups took place in Denver all weekend and were the largest demonstrations since Oct. 7. Several people were arrested for shutting down a street in Denver.

Israeli citizen and CEO of Project Wadi Attir — a sustainable farming initiative — Nimrod Rogel attended the conference and said that it is strange to be somewhere where they aren’t under the physical threat of the war.

“It’s a very big change of atmosphere because I live 20 kilometers from Gaza,” Rogel said. “My house has been literally shaking for two months.”

Rogel attended the conference without his family, who he said stayed at home in Israel. 

“I feel like it is so hard to talk to people because they don’t want to have conversations with you. I’ve tried with close friends who have posted blatant misinformation. I’ll swipe up and be like, ‘Hey, as your friend and as a close friend, this hurts me; this hurts my community.’” -Zoe Mardiks, University of Colorado Boulder student

The conference held a college summit Friday that drew in students from across the country and internationally. The summit was meant to be a place for Jewish students to connect with their community while learning about Israel, Oberman said.

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“We feel there’s never been a more important time to have informed people on college campuses,” Oberman said. “What’s interesting to me is that at our conference, you’ve got people who are Jewish (and) who are not Jewish and on both sides of politics. It doesn’t matter if they’re Democrat, Republican or somewhere in between.”

The summit allowed students from different college campuses to come together and share their experiences. Students discussed facing violence and threats on campus because of their Jewish identity, highlighting that some campuses have seen a greater rise in violence than others.

“It’s kind of been, in the grand scheme of things, very weak compared to other colleges where you have Jewish kids literally being assaulted because they’re Jewish,” University of Colorado Boulder student Zoe Mardiks said.

Despite not facing violence on campus, the situation has still been challenging for students like Mardiks, who said she struggles with the pressure of it all.

“I feel it is, in some aspects, kind of isolating just to see people on social media post blatant misinformation,” Mardiks said. “It just makes you feel very isolated.”

The sudden influx of anti-Zionism on campus has completely changed the campus experience for Jewish student leaders, CU student Jake Stone said. Stone served as the JNF College Summit chair at the conference this year.

“It all kind of switched on all at once, and it was a bit of a mad panic and a mad scramble trying to put out as many fires as possible,” Stone said.

Dealing with misinformation and antisemitism on campus has been the most challenging thing, Mardiks said.

“I feel like it is so hard to talk to people because they don’t want to have conversations with you,” Mardiks said. “I’ve tried with close friends who have posted blatant misinformation. I’ll swipe up and be like, ‘Hey, as your friend and as a close friend, this hurts me; this hurts my community.’” 

Students attending the conference said they’ve had to deal with threats entering and exiting the convention center.

“Last night, on our way to the opening ceremony, someone literally told us to go back to Auschwitz,” Mardiks said. “It’s very hard not to interact with those types of people because you want to protect your Jewish community and Jewish values.”

Reach Hannah Parcells at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @HannahParcells.

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About the Contributors
Hannah Parcells, News Editor
Hannah Parcells is currently the news editor at The Collegian, a role that she loves dearly. Parcells uses she/her pronouns and began writing for The Collegian in fall 2023 as a reporter under the news, science, opinion and life and culture desks.  Parcells is currently pursuing two degrees: a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in political science with a concentration in global politics. Parcells has always been passionate about understanding and helping other people and hopes to use her education to try and leave the world a little better than she found it.  Raised in Castle Rock, Colorado, Parcells grew up with a love of learning, music and writing. She’s always working to learn more about the world through history and art and loves being introduced to new places, people and ideas.  On the off chance that she’s not buried in textbooks, research papers and policy analyses, Hannah can be found on a hike, watching movies or at any local bookstore or coffee shop, feeding her ongoing addictions to both caffeine and good books. Parcells is incredibly proud of the work she’s done at The Collegian so far and is excited to continue that work as an editor of the news desk.
Milo Gladstein, Photo Director
Milo Gladstein is a fifth-year senior majoring in journalism and media communications. He is currently serving as one of the two photo directors for the 2o23-24 school year. Gladstein's work focuses on long-form stories diving deep into what it means to be human and sharing people's passion and story with the community. He did not begin as a journalism major and has worn many hats while at CSU. He began as a conservation biology major, moving to undeclared and then horticulture therapy before finally landing in the journalism department. He seeks stories about community members who are impacting the world around them in positive ways and shares those stories. Working at The Collegian has taught Gladstein about working on a team, how to develop a story and the best ways to present said stories. Most importantly, he has grown from a photographer into a photojournalist. As co-photo director, he hopes to pass that knowledge on to the next group of journalists rising through The Collegian. When not working at The Collegian or in class, Gladstein can be found reading a book or in the outdoors climbing, camping, exploring and getting lost in the mountains.

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