While the Israeli-Palestinian crisis may be far removed from most Penn students, it has always been “an emotional and pressing part” of College senior Sam Adelsberg’s life.
Earlier this month, Adelsberg served as a panelist at the Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting, where he talked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Each year, CGI U holds a meeting for students across college campuses in the United States to discuss solutions to current international issues.
This year, the meeting took place at the University of Miami and was moderated by President Bill Clinton.
According to Adelsberg, economic development is the key factor in creating peace in Palestine.
“There are a lot of issues at stake with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, but the economic crisis, in my mind, has been the most overlooked,” he said.
To that end, Adelsberg created LendforPeace.org with other current and former Penn students Wharton junior Andrew Dudum, College alumnus David Fraga and Penn Law alumnus Allam Taj. LendForPeace is a non-profit organization that enables the transfer of funds directly to micro-entrepreneurs in Palestine, connecting lenders around the world with those who are on the ground, Adelsberg said.
“The Clinton Global Initiative University believed in our mission and the power of Jewish and Palestinian students coming together,” he said. “They believed in the power of economic development to be a catalyst for a resolution.”
Growing up in an orthodox Jewish family in New York, Adelsberg said it was hard for his family to accept what he was working for in the beginning.
“When you look at where he grew up and what he’s doing now, it’s a real statement to what he believes in,” College senior and close friend Adam Hanover said. “He’s transformed the people of Flatbush, N.Y. to be open to the work he’s done — and that’s only just the beginning.”
Adelsberg said his parents now realize that his work is also helping Israelis, and that helping Palestinians as well does not mean that this is a “zero-sum game” for Israel.
In addition to being an active member of the Jewish community at Penn and frequently visiting Israel, Adelsberg has also studied Arabic and studied abroad in Egypt.
“At a recent public forum moderated by President Gutmann, I expressed my total confidence that America’s best undergraduates were going to become leaders and solve our biggest civic and global problems. Exhibit A is Sam Adelsberg,” Political Science professor John DiIulio wrote in an e-mail.
“He inspires you in the classroom with his mastery of the material, he inspires you outside the classroom with can-do projects like Lend for Peace, and he displays not only amazing smarts but real heart for one and all,” DiIulio added.
Adelsberg will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in Modern Middle East Studies and Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He plans to attend the University of Cambridge next year to work toward a career at the intersection of faith and public policy.
“Every religion has both good and bad people,” he said. “It’s about empowering the good voices out there and drowning out the bad.”
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