Signer Spotlight:

Ilan Sinelnikov

Ilan is the President and Founder of Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a JFP partner and pro-Israel student movement that, over the past 12 years, has operated on over 200 college campuses and universities in the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Israel. 

Why is it so important to have organizations like the Jewish Future Promise?

The Jewish people will always be around, but the question is how comfortable we will be. I always tell our students we are the luckiest Jewish generation to be alive in 3,000 years; even with all the challenges we face today, we still have it way better than our ancestors and what they faced just three or four generations ago. We must be the generation to carry the light and win this fight in our time for the Jewish people.

People buy medical, home, boat, or even pet insurance. But what about insurance for the Jewish people? If I could tell you today that we can secure the future of the Jewish people by “buying insurance” through our support of Jewish organizations and Israel, I would take it in a heartbeat.

Why did you launch Students Supporting Israel (SSI) in 2012, and why is it even more critical to have SSI on campuses today?

On-campus antisemitism is nothing new. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, there was an official “Israel Apartheid Week” where groups like SJP brought anti-Israel speakers to campus and hosted demonstrations against Israel like what we’re seeing today.

We saw no response to this hatred, so we registered a student organization with the university – Students Supporting Israel. Our goals were to be visible, proactive rather than reactive, and not just a Jewish organization but a club for all Zionist students on campus.

In the last 12 years, SSI has registered more than 200 clubs with universities across the United States, Canada, and Argentina to fight this very important fight. So many students love Israel and want to do something, but don’t know where to start. We (SSI) give them the tools, and the opportunity to turn their passion into action to become activists, and eventually, grassroots organizers. We’ve helped thousands of students fight back and stand strong and unapologetic in their support of Israel.

Ilan was recently assaulted during an on-campus protest at the University of California, Berkeley. Click here to see the video. Tell us about this incident and your takeaways following it.

Across all our schools, our number one call for all our students is to go out and be visible. It doesn’t matter if you’re outnumbered; people need to see there is a pro-Israel side on their campus. We cannot just leave the space empty for our detractors to take over the entire conversation.

When the encampments at Berkeley went up, I had to show up and be there with our students. Our new SSI club at Berkeley, which is mostly made up of freshman students, walked toward the encampment site with three Israeli flags to show “We’re here.” What I then saw in Berkeley was the most hateful, bigoted incitement I’ve seen in 12 years of activism.

From the moment we arrived at the encampment, a professional organizer took over the mic and started calling for violence against us. They chanted, “Kick out all Zionists from this country,” and called us Talmudic Devils. After 20 minutes of tension, the organizer ran and tried to grab the Israeli flag out of the hands of a female freshman student. I didn’t want him to take it and have the disgrace of someone spitting on it or burning it. While I was holding the flag as strong as I could, someone ran from behind and punched me in the back of the head. He cut my lip open and continued to swing with his arm toward my head.

We managed to get the flag out, but the students and I were assaulted with zero action from the police. Our attackers are probably still at Berkeley, walking free.

I left Berkeley, but what about the students who are still there and need to go to this campus to attend class? And not just at Berkeley, but for students across the country. University administrations are enabling antisemitism and allowing hateful environments to be established and developed on their campuses while doing nothing to protect their students.

How do you think students have been mobilized into anti-Israel demonstrators?

When I was a student at the University of Minnesota, I saw on-campus protesters waving flags supporting the PFLP. I asked a student if they knew about the flag they held, and they said it was the flag of the “Socialist Communist Party.” You’re seeing terrorist groups from the Middle East aligning with students with communist or Marxist ideals and partnering together to attack Israel and Jewish students on campuses.

We’ve since seen Hezbollah flags at Princeton – the same Hezbollah that killed 200+ U.S. marines in 1983 when they bombed an American military base in Beirut, Lebanon. We’ve seen Stanford students with Hamas bandanas and a Northwestern University student wearing a sweatshirt featuring a Hamas spokesperson.

There are far too many protestors who don’t know the history of these groups that were previously involved in terrorist acts against not just Israel, but America and Americans.

When you combine this with professional agitators and students collecting information from soundbites online and 30-second videos, we have a big problem. If students are already deciding to ignore what happened on October 7, how will they remember what Hezbollah did in the 1990s or what happened in the 1930s?

You can spit out dates and statistics as much as you want, but it’s different when you try to learn the Jewish and Israeli people’s stories and experiences and hear the emotions they feel. To me, that would be a good step in the right direction about education around this conflict.

What would you say to those who feel threats of antisemitism are overblown?

Antisemitism has always been present. Some years, it’s more tuned down and quiet, but at some point, it can and will explode like it has done on college campuses. In my opinion, we are at a crossroads. How will our campuses look 20 years from now if Jewish students don’t attend them because they’re not safe?

This all makes me think of Elie Wiesel’s recollections from Europe in the 1930s, where many Jews wrote off the Nazi threat and later paid the ultimate price. We’re seeing Jewish students be denied entry to parts of campus and worse. This is happening right now, and we need to wake up, recognize the seriousness of the problem, and act before it’s too late.  


In 2024, Ilan and the SSI movement were awarded the Medal of Valor Award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center for his and SSI’s work on college campuses. Ilan is also part of the emerging leadership program of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County. Outside of his Israel work, he has coached youth and high school soccer for nearly 13 years as a national licensed coach by the United States Soccer Federation.