Big week for Michelle

August 31, 2010 by Elly Shalev
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Last week Michelle Rojas-Tal spoke to more than 1,500 people across the Melbourne community and thousands more via mainstream and Jewish media at 20 different forums.

Michelle makes a point

The Diaspora Education Director for Israel education organization StandWithUs addressed a wide range of issues on Israel including current affairs, the media preoccupation with Israel, the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israeli goods, the recent Flotilla to Gaza, the 2009 Operation Cast Lead against Hamas and numerous other topics thrown her way.

The 20 speaking engagements included a cross-section of all ages in the community: Years 10, 11 & 12 at Bialik College; Years 9 – 12 at Leibler Yavneh College (180 students), Years 9 -12 at Beth Rivka College (also 180 students); moderating a debate for AUJS (Australasian Union of Jewish Students); a Boardroom lunch for young professionals with Hagshama; talking to youth post their year-away in Israel (IBC program 2009), as well as community forums for the public, women and key Zionist Council of Victoria supporters.

At a packed forum on Israel and the Media, Michelle emphasised that this is a critical time for Israel, and not on the traditional battlefield. “The public relations war is the number one war” she said.

At the women’s forum “Ethical Shopping”  co-hosted by the ZCV, UIA Women’s Division & NCJWA (Vic) Michelle gave a compelling presentation on B.I.G. – Buying Israeli Goods and supporting Israeli products in the face of worldwide boycotts on Israeli goods, known as BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions).

Aggressive BDS activity has already come to Australia, she said, screening a confronting clip of anti-Israeli extremists surrounding the counter of Israeli beauty products “Seacret” at a Brisbane shopping centre recently.

Michelle said that community vigilance was vital when it comes to the anti-Israeli BDS movement.

Michelle recommended not cancelling subscriptions to newspapers such as The Age and not cancelling memberships to unions who pass anti-Israel resolutions and are engaged in boycotts of Israel. “We must stay informed” she stressed.

The Zionist Council of Victoria regularly updates the “Buy Israeli” register on our website at www.zcv.org.au. Click here to view and browse.

While here, Michelle was interviewed by both mainstream and Jewish media.

Michelle Rojas-Tal with Martin King

On MTR 1377AM radio, presenter Martin King asked Michelle to stay on the air for talkback radio. What followed were several aggressive and provocative calls which Michelle answered brilliantly, to the point and backed up with facts. Click here to listen to the MTR podcast.

ZCV Executive Director Ginette Searle said, “Michelle captured the attention of every single audience she addressed, from Year 10 students to community leaders. When Rojas-Tal speaks about Israel, she is clear, concise, passionate and dynamic. She speaks from her heart and she inspires you to want to do stand up and do something pro-active for Israel.”

Michelle’s path to Israel education came about quite uniquely. As the daughter of a Jewish mother and a Hispanic father, Michelle had very little connection with the Jewish world in her younger years.

During high school living in New York, she witnessed the horrific events of September 11th. The event had a domino effect on her life and led her to look differently at the impact of global events on her own life.

As Michelle herself attests to, she took her youthful experience as a campaigner for worldwide human rights and applied them to a newfound dedication to Israel.

Michelle began her work at StandWithUs in 2005 in Israel, as the Jerry Seinfeld Family Scholar. She then returned to New York to serve for 2 years as the StandWithUs Community Outreach Coordinator, working with numerous organisations in the field of education.

Michelle made Israel her home in July 2007, joining the StandWithUs International team as Diaspora Education Director. In her position, Michelle has worked with advocacy groups in Israel, South America, South Africa, Switzerland and Turkey.

This was her second visit to Australia.

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