By Ru Benhamou, Features Editor
On Monday, March 20, 2023, the Israeli American Council Mishelanu Club in conjunction with the YU Sports Management Club brought in the influential actress and sports journalist, Emily Austin. With an immense following as an influencer on a multitude of social media platforms, Emily Austin is a proud Jew and Zionist, who not only impacts the worldwide sports network, but also heavily utilizes her status to combat antisemitism and convey her personal values and ethics.
This event specifically featured Emily Austin’s controversial claims rallying support for the State of Israel and contest against antisemitism, in the eyes of her fellow colleagues and competitors alike. Austin spoke about her critical experiences in navigating the hostility towards Jews in defense of their homeland and how difficult, but triumphant, she has been. For example, Austin explained how she has been a victim of the infamous “cancel culture” that is rampant among social media platforms, while expressing her defensive and upstanding claims for Israel. As Yaelle Akhavan (SCW ‘23) reflected, “It was very interesting to see how Emily Austin advocates for Israel even in a secular environment, where one might be afraid to do so.”
As part of the Israeli American Council Mishelanu Club’s mission statement for “students to become a living bridge between Israel and the campus community,” this event introduced the vivid antisemitic culture within media, as well as a call to action among the impassioned population of Yeshiva University (IAC Mishelanu). To engage students in an active dialogue, ambassadors from both clubs asked a series of questions in a Q and A style panel discussion.
Pivotal questions formulated by active members of the IAC Mishelanu Club, asked about Austin’s connection to Israel and what has inspired her to become an activist on social media. Other questions involved a more specific and nuanced inquiry into some of the backlashes she has faced on social media, and how she responded to those challenges, whether it be negative comments, trolls, or threats. Lastly, students sought guidance on how they could be more resilient in our social media activism when there are many threats and fears of retaliation.
Alongside these particular questions among the intersections of politics and social media, in regards to advocating Israel and Judaism in combat of its foes, ambassadors from the YU Sports Management Club, asked their own questions about Austin’s work within the athletic industry, particularly as a reporter for NBA. For example, students asked about what initially sparked Austin’s passion to enter this field, as well as to reflect upon her challenges and experiences of being both a Jew and a young woman in a male-dominated industry. Students particularly inquired about what qualities and skills in Austin’s experience she needed to succeed in sports journalism. As well as the technicalities of finding and pitching article ideas to different editors, and what a day in the life of a sports journalist entails.
At the panel’s conclusion, Emily Austin gave advice on when students enter more diverse work environments, how we can advocate for Israel, and also respond to antisemitism. And more particularly, how can students facilitate, promote, and encourage more women to enter and succeed in sports journalism careers? The president of the YU Sports Management Club, Ethan Schuman (Sy Syms ‘23), relayed, “It was incredibly powerful how passionate she was about supporting the Jewish community and how she set a great example of how to build up a valuable network in a very competitive industry.”