2018-02-14 / Home

Dynamic Israel activist Chloé Valdary a headliner at Middle East Institute

By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff


CHLOÉ VALDARY…will lead a special session for students at 5:30 p.m. as well as speak at 7 p.m. CHLOÉ VALDARY…will lead a special session for students at 5:30 p.m. as well as speak at 7 p.m. Pro-Israel activist Chloé Valdary, 24, realized towards the end of her undergraduate years that the us-verses-them dichotomy that often defines the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a serious turn-off to college students and other millennials.

“Basically asking how to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment are the wrong questions,” said Valdary, who will be speaking at the JCRC’s 49th Annual Middle East Institute at Cong. Beth El on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. “We should be asking how to get people to fall in love with Israel.”

Valdary, a New Orleans native who is black and Christian, set out to answer the second question after graduating from the University of New Orleans. While serving as a Tikvah Fellow under Pulitzer Prize-winner Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal, she developed an 82-page paper on Israel advocacy and millennial engagement—what works, what doesn’t, and how to make it better.

The result is her “Theory of Enchantment,” which creates a more relatable conversation about Israel, she explained. Eschewing a political debate, she stresses viewing the plight of Israelis and Palestinians based on compassion for both sides. Now a Shillman Fellow and Director of Partnerships and Outreach at Jerusalem U, she does this by relating the conflict and the need for reconciliation through the lens of popular contemporary movies, such as Disney’s “Moana” and “The Little Mermaid.”

“I can teach the importance of talking about reconciliation through ‘Moana’ and use Ursula from ‘The Little Mermaid’ to show what exploitation is like in the real world,” said Valdary, who will share her theory both with students at the MEI during a special program for students at 5:30 p.m. and again during the 7 p.m. community program.

She noted that Disney is not her only source material. She relates Israel to real-life examples, such as how reconciliation eventually came to groups of sworn enemies in Rwanda.

Valdary, who grew up keeping kosher, studying the Jewish Bible, and celebrating Jewish holidays as a member of the Intercontinental Church of God, said her theory has won over diverse audiences.

“As an influencer, I am trying to get people to work more towards their emotional intelligence,” she said, noting she speaks regularly on college campuses and to high school groups, but also to more mixed audiences. “People who are Jewish, non-Jewish, young or old, each have had the same response across the board, which is pure joy.”

Valdary said she is now creating digital versions of her presentations that will eventually be distributed to campus organizations, among others.

In addition to Valdary, this year’s MEI will feature keynote speaker Ambassador Dani Dayan, the Israeli Consul General in New York. Also, Helene and Alan Blumenfeld will be honored with the 2018 JCRC Israel Advocacy Award for their dedication to the State of Israel.

The program will start at 7 p.m., with a VIP reception prior, at 5:30 p.m. All guests are welcome for a dessert reception following the event.

To register for the 49th Annual Middle East Institute, please visit www.jcrcsnj.org. 

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