Club Z By Shira Schaffer

On January 18, 12 amazing SDJA students flew to San Francisco to take part in a three day forum.  The theme of this year’s forum was “Zionisim – A Love Story”.

The Youth Conference on the Middle East and Israel is an annual North American teen conference sponsored by Club Z. The event brings together teens in grades 9-12 from across the United States, for a weekend of learning, debate, discovery, skill building and fun. Conference empowers future leaders to connect with their peers and engage in thought-provoking discussions, fun-filled workshops, and much more.

Club Z Conference is THE place where modern day luminaries of Zionism come together to inspire the new generation of proud and articulate Zionist.


During the forum we were honored to listen to inspiring speakers:

Ryan Bellerose is a Metis from Northern Alberta who has pioneered the rights of indigenous people all over the world.  Ryan founded Canadians For Accountability, a native advocacy group, and was an idle No More (INM*) movement organizer. He is also a self-proclaimed Zionist who has lectured all over United States and Canada and is the inspiration for this year’s theme of the forum.


Kasim Hafeez is a British Muslim, best known for founding the Israel Campaign, a pro Israel advocacy organization. Hafeez was born in England to parents of Pakistani origin, and was indoctrinated as a teenager in school and at home to become both an anti-semite and anti-Israel. During his time in the university, he made plans to join a terrorist training camp, but radically changed his view after reading The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz, and later by visiting Israel. 


Sharona Eshet -Kohen Sharona Eshet-Cohen is something of a Renaissance woman who teaches algebra, geometry, history, English language arts (with special training in how to teach essay writing), and Hebrew, and who has taught all ages from early childhood through university. (She also teaches swimming!)

Her educational philosophy can be summed up in one sentence, she says: “Make it interesting and relevant or it’s not worth teaching.” The hard work she invests in her teaching is all worth it when she sees “the glint in students’ eyes when something clicks for them and they suddenly understand the material they’re learning.”

Ms. Eshet-Cohen holds Bachelor degrees in economics and legal studies, and a Master’s degree in Israel studies with a focus on history. Her graduate work required strong knowledge of history from throughout the world, especially European history. She is working toward a doctorate in Israel, where she currently lives. Sharona is an alumni of SDJA!

Attorney Ran Bar-Yoshafat: Ran is the Deputy Director of Kohelet Policy Forum. He has conducted numerous Israel advocacy speaking tours in the United States. He is the Project Manager of the IJC – The Israeli Jewish Congress. Previously, Mr. Bar Yoshafat worked for the Legal Department of the Knesset, was the director of the Jerusalem District of the EZ-Way Psychometric Company, and instructed special classes for struggling minorities. He also led groups of “MASA” young adults participants in Israel and has given lectures to a wide group of audiences on various matters relating to Israel and project building.
A member of the IMPACT! Alumni club (Scholarships for IDF soldiers) and has been active with the Jewish Agency for Israel – the Zionist seminars and the Summer Delegates, and with StandWithUs, WUJS and other pro-Israel organizations. Mr. Bar-Yoshafat has an L.L.B from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, an MBA from Tel-Aviv University, and an MA from Haifa University.

Here is what some of our students are saying about their experience:

“Club Z gives students a chance to learn about and advocate for Israel. The keynote speakers blew me away with their stories. I recommend students going at least once in their high school career.”

“Club Z was a great experience! I learned a lot about Zionism and Judaism. It was great to meet other Jewish teens from around the country. We had very engaging discussions which I got a lot out of. I’m very excited to start Club Z here and to go to the forum next year!”

“Club Z was an experience that has influenced me in a great amount with my Jewish identity. Learning four life stories on how amazing Israel is has not only made me a proud Jew but it has made me determined to stand up and fight for my homeland. Club Z was an experience I will grow from and remember when I am needed to protect and defend our home.”

“I really liked the speakers. The forum was very interesting, fun and I gained lots of knowledge”

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