Brian Shaw, member of Birthright Israel Foundation’s Chicago Leadership Cabinet, supports the program to combat misinformation about Israel. When Brian was in college, he did his thesis on the fall of the Ottoman Empire, a part of Middle East history many people are unfamiliar with. Brian feels very few people understand the relationship between the fall of the Ottoman Empire and Israel, let alone that Jews have been in Israel for over 3,000 years.
During college Brian began to see anti-Israel activity on campus and realized many people did not understand the Jewish people’s connection to Israel. Today, he is more concerned than ever about young Jewish adults on campus disconnecting to their religion and their identity as Jews. As a result, he has made it his mission to support organizations focused on Israel-education. As a parent of three children, he has made one of his philanthropic priorities Birthright Israel Foundation.
For those that do not know, Birthright Israel Foundation has made a mark on the Jewish world by bringing 750,000+ young Jews to Israel. In an interview with Brian, we had the chance to get to know him.
Why do you support Birthright Israel Foundation?
The simplest reason is that there is a narrative about Israel that needs to be countered. There is a narrative about the Middle East that paints Israel into a bunch of what it’s not. The only way to combat misinformation about Israel is through education.
Growing up, did you have a connection to Israel?
I hated Sunday school growing up and didn’t have much involvement as a kid until I was older. I really got into Israel in college since I was a Middle East history major. At the same time, I learned that people thought of Israel as an oppressor. I was amazed at the false narrative that had taken hold of so many.
How do you think Birthright Israel plays a role in your average Jewish college student’s life?
Change comes from the power of knowledge. It’s all education. The insidiousness of anti-Israel campaigns is that they’ve gotten ahold of our youth. When they go on Birthright Israel, a curtain is kind of removed, and they’re given knowledge they can touch and see. The kids then don’t fill in the blanks with someone else’s false narrative. They know the facts themselves and have something to say when they get home.
Why should others support Birthright Israel Foundation?
If we don’t educate our young people, we are going to lose them. We have to give them the tools, and we don’t have a choice anymore; the time is now. The anti-Israel campaigns sweeping across college campuses are feeding our youth a false narrative about Israel. We need to provide opportunities to learn the facts and the truth. What comes out of Birthright Israel are potential leaders for our community. Birthright Israel has a more diversified reach than just your typical Jewish enclave and gives an opportunity for connection to those who would otherwise be lost to us.