Phillip Brodsky

On Israel, youth engagement and how to answer tough questions

Phillip Brodsky MA/MBA ’10Phillip Brodsky, MA/MBA’10, Executive Director, The David Project

It was just after the Second Intifada started that Phillip Brodsky, then 18, returned home to Charlotte, North Carolina after a summer program in Israel.

“Places I had just been to were now in the news for the worst reasons and it was very disturbing. It was very hard for me to go back to high school, back to America, after such an awesome experience there,” remembers Phil.

In 2000 when there was violence in Israel, rallies flared in America. “There were rallies in Charlotte when I got home,” he says. “But for me it was now personal. ‘What about me?' I asked myself. 'What's my rally?'”

“So I organized a pro-Israel rally for the youth of Charlotte, and me and my friends from different youth groups got together about 200 young people from four Hebrew high schools for this hour-long rally,” says Phil.

“It was really cool. Looking back, I think a lot of my leadership values and practices were in play during that time, things that I have since worked to strengthen, including doing something that's engaging, getting people from different Jewish groups together, empowering my generation's voice… It all kind of started there.”

Engagement was Phil's focus going into the Hornstein-Heller dual-degree program, which he completed in 2010.

“For every single class I took,” he says, “I made a conscious effort to focus back on engagement work with young adults. So whenever we had an assignment, that's what I was thinking about.”

But a love of Israel clearly binds his work together. That too grew out of that first trip he made to Israel as a high school student.

Today Phil is the executive director of The David Project, an Israel advocacy organization that works on 42 college campuses in the United States engaging Jewish and non-Jewish students and their communities with Israel.

Phillip Brodsky with staff from The David ProjectPhillip Brodsky is shown here with staff from The David Project during a recent staff retreat.

His work includes helping students learn how to talk about what he calls “tough questions” and develop relationships with other student communities and their leadership.

“A lot of young people's connection to Israel is through culture and identity and values. They don't love Israel because there's a conflict there. They want to share their connection to Israel with others so they can connect with people about that which they love. So we teach them how to articulate their ideas.”

This month, The David Project is taking 240 undergraduate students to Israel in a program they call Israel Uncovered. Of these, 190 are non-Jewish campus leaders, friends of the other 50 Jewish students who were selected to join their program. Their Twitter stream shows them arriving in Tel Aviv and eating falafel sandwiches!

In His Own Words: An Interview with Phillip Brodsky

This interview with Phillip Brodsky was published in the Hornstein Program's Impact Newsletter, December 2015. If you would like to quote any part of this conversation, please attribute content to Phillip Brodsky and the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University and link to this page. All rights reserved.

“Judaism's pretty cool. It's a great lens to use to look at the world if you've had the opportunity to learn how to access it. And I think a lot of people probably haven't.”

Phillip Brodsky, MA/MBA’10