Hundreds of pro-Israel and Jewish college students to meet in Atlanta

Talia Segal, a fourth-year biomedical engineering student, is the president of Hillel at Georgia Tech. Photographed in Atlanta on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024.   (Ben Gray /

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Talia Segal, a fourth-year biomedical engineering student, is the president of Hillel at Georgia Tech. Photographed in Atlanta on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024.   (Ben Gray /

More than 800 Jewish and pro-Israel students from college campuses across the nation will meet Sunday and Monday in Atlanta for the largest such gathering since militants attacked Israel in early October.

The attacks killed about 1,200 people and about 250 people — including some Americans — were initially taken hostage, according to the Associated Press. The ensuing Israel-Hamas war has caused many living in Gaza to flee, and Israel’s assault has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians, the AP reported.

On college campuses in Georgia and elsewhere, students have launched vigils and protests in support of Israel and for Palestinians. And an increase in reports of antisemitism and Islamophobia has heightened tensions, putting students and parents on edge.

Hillel International, a Jewish student organization active at 850 schools that’s organizing the upcoming Israel Summit in Atlanta, logged more than 1,000 antisemitic incidents on college campuses since the Oct. 7 attack. Those incidents range from vandalism and graffiti targeted to Jewish groups or students, hate speech and several dozen reports of physical assault or harassment, according to Hillel International President and CEO Adam Lehman.

Jewish students have increasingly felt isolated and marginalized, he said, which makes this weekend’s summit all the more meaningful to participants. Due to security measures, organizers have asked that the exact location of the event is not made public.

“So many Jewish students are looking for ways to come together, feel seen by their peers, be able to learn from one another and just to be in community with one another,” Lehman said in a phone interview.

Talia Segal, a Georgia Tech senior and president of Georgia Tech Hillel, served on the planning committee for the event. She also has family members who live in Israel.

Shortly after the October attacks, someone used shaving cream to write what officials described as “a pro-Palestinian message” on the outside of a Jewish fraternity house. More recently, Segal said she saw a message scrawled in chalk near the student center that said “Zionists Off Campus.”

Being a student leader on campus during this troubling period has “fundamentally changed” her life’s path, she said.

“For so long I had kind of taken for granted my Jewish and Zionist identities. You know, they were very fundamental parts of who I was, but it was never a conscious choice for me to express those things. And so for us to be making the conscious choice to be Jewish and be Zionist proudly in a time when it is now difficult, I do think that it has proven how important those things are to us,” said Segal, 22, a biomedical engineering student from Florida.

She’s gotten to know Jewish students at campuses across the country and has found their time together, even during virtual meetings, to be healing. It’s one reason she’s looking forward to the Atlanta event.

“We understood each other on a very fundamental level, and so the opportunity to have that type of a space again while also learning and getting more tools and resources to work with for our advocacy when we go back to campus it’s incredibly empowering,” Segal said.

Lehman said the gathering will focus on what’s happening in Israel and the war, the state of the United States’ relationship with Israel, what Jewish students are experiencing on college campuses and how they can build relationships across their campuses with other communities.

Hillel is launching a series of Black and Jewish student unity dinners across the country, he said. The summit will include a panel on Black and Jewish relationships, and appearances by dozens of different speakers.