Samantha Simon ’09: Artist, Advocate
Samantha (Sam) Simon ’09 takes freedom of expression to an entirely new level. Always one to pursue her passions, Sam takes her love of Israel advocacy — inspired at Sinai Akiba Academy — into every aspect of her life.
Sam’s love of Israel (Ahavat Yisrael) was nurtured at the School from her earliest days in mommy and me classes, where she began studying what it means to be Jewish. Her years of education enabled her to become a knowledgeable and proud Jewish adult. “The School empowered me to take pride in my identity as a Jew, and I like living by that,” she says. Sam transformed this pride into art, with dance as her medium, for her senior thesis project in college. She used words from world leaders as well as press coverage to create a dance performance exploring the theme of Israel bias in the media, a unique concept since few dance performances use spoken word.
She was startled to find that some of her professors had an anti-Israel bias, which they shared unabashedly. “I had professors who singled me out in my classes, who publicly said they disagreed with everything said in my performance,” Sam says. The pursuit of justice (Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof), a core Sinai Akiba value, guided her forward after that experience. She went on to become a strong supporter of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on campus and worked to develop its network at her university.
“We worked with college Democrats and Republicans, student body presidents and student senators, to talk to them about Israel,” Sam recalls. During her senior year, the anti-Israel group BDS tried to get a foothold on campus, and her efforts were important to its defeat. “It was a 48-hour period where we had to get students to vote against it. We used the relationships we had built to activate the support of key student leaders when it counted most.”
After graduation, Sam completed a two-year fellowship at AIPAC. The experience was a way to give back to the community that raised her as well as a homecoming. “I met with a diverse group of people including many connected to Sinai Akiba for the work that I did,” she says.
Always advocating for Israel, Sam shares her passion with everyone she meets. “One of my closest friends to this day is a Turkish Muslim who visited Tel Aviv because I inspired her,” she says. “Now I know more about Turkey and she about Israel, so our friendship is closer than ever.”