Pro-Israel advocate tells Addlestone school to stand up to deniers

Shahar Azani (right), Northeast regional director for the pro-Israeli group StandWithUs, visited Addlestone Hebrew Academy on Tuesday with Southeast Campus Coordinator Lauren Feibelman and Michael Stricker, co-chair of the Ida Fisher Memorial Fund for Israel Education and Action.

A pro-Israel advocate cited instances of swastikas being spray painted on Jewish fraternity buildings at some U.S. colleges Tuesday at Addlestone Hebrew Academy, a private school in West Ashley.

The advocate, Shahar Azani, is a former deputy spokesman of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and currently works as Northeast regional director for the nonprofit pro-Israel organization StandWithUs. He said he was concerned about the prominence of some Holocaust deniers, including Iranian political leaders, as well as pressure on some college campuses for some Jewish students to renounce Zionism.

“We feel we need to stand up to any such effort,” Azani said. “A malaise on the finger can spread and infect the whole body.”

Azani said he also wanted to clear up misconceptions about modern-day Israel, especially about safety concerns for visitors. And when it comes to Israeli treatment of Palestinians, he said he wanted to bring some nuance to debates that are often portrayed in black and white. “The most vibrant political discourse” on the issue, he said, occurs within Israel’s own borders.

Azani’s talk took place in the auditorium at Addlestone Hebrew Academy’s new campus, which opened its doors in December.

“The heroes today are the teachers,” Azani said. “They are nurturing the leaders of tomorrow.”

The talk was hosted by Congregation Dor Tikvah and the Ida Fisher Memorial Fund for Israel Education and Action. Michael Stricker, co-chair of the fund, said the congregation has strong ties to Israel, including some Israeli members and others who visit the country regularly.

“In my parents’ generation, support for Israel was unconditional because we were just coming out of the Holocaust and this was seared in our collective memory,” Stricker said. “It’s much more complicated now.”

Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546 or twitter.com/paul_bowers.