Yoav Silbert

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yoavsilbertServed from 1971 – 1974

Q: How did being an Israeli emissary in Milwaukee impact your life and career path?

A: I arrived in Milwaukee in August 1971. It was my best of times. I was doing what I believed in, and I found a warm and responding community to do it with.

It was a time of turmoil and transit in America: The Vietnam War was approaching its end – but the atmosphere of the demonstrations against it was still very much felt. Students, in particular Jewish students, were highly involved in the struggle for human justice, especially for the Afro-Americans, but the Black activists were gaining enough strength and confidence to fight for their cause on their own. I found that many of the young Jewish students were very enthusiastic – but loosing direction, as the old good causes were dwindling away. On the other hand the Six Days War of Israel was still fresh in public memory. Already critical doubts were arising as to Israel’s policy towards the Occupied Territories – but by and large there was a great sense of pride over the achievements of this young and threatened state.

It was not difficult, with this background, to arise intense interest of the Wisconsin Jewish students in Israel and its problems. Many of them enrolled in programs offering an experience in Israel. Others gave expression to their interest by becoming active in the Jewish Student House in Milwaukee or The Hillel house on the Madison campus. When needed, some joined counter-demonstrations to the Neo-Nazi movement who tried to lift its head in the City’s streets. But my main thrust was to encourage as much as I could the few who considered Aliya. My main argument was: “Israel, Like the United States, is far from being perfect, but in this very young and very small place – YOU can make the difference!”