Yalla for Israel rallies campus support
Photos: Courtesy Zander Feinstein and Tyler Winton
Zeta Beta Tau members at UT-Austin said a misheberach, which went viral and was copied by college students around the U.S., Oct. 10, 2023.

By Deb Silverthorn

In the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, Dallas natives Zander Feinstein and Tyler Winton have taken the spirit of the word “yalla — let’s go” all the way to support Friends of the Israel Defense Forces by founding Yalla For Israel.

The duo, graduates of Akiba Yavneh Academy, are University of Texas at Austin students. Feinstein, the son of Dana and Ari, is a rising senior; Winton, the son of Jennifer and Michael, graduated in May and will return to complete his Master’s of Professional Accounting. They have seen their 9-month-old 501(c)3 raise nearly $180,000 and their efforts aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

“Tyler texted me and said ‘Let’s raise some money from the fraternities and sororities,” said Feinstein, whose parents were in Israel on Oct. 7. “We posted a video of our Zeta Beta Tau brothers saying the ‘misheberach,’ a healing prayer, and we saw the power of unity almost immediately.”

In less than 24 hours they’d raised more than $5,000 and the word had spread to students at more than 150 colleges and universities around the country. More than 5,000 young people engage with the organization.

“We’re empowering young Jewish leaders to make a meaningful impact within their communities by standing together to support soldiers our age who are facing unimaginable challenges,” said Feinstein. “Together, we have a duty to contribute, raise awareness and stand in solidarity with those who need our support as we aim to help Israel in its enduring struggle for existence.

“Everyone wanted to act, to get involved, to be a part of helping however that meant and across the country immediately,” added Feinstein. “There were petitions, letter-writing campaigns, platforms of so many formats all by students who wanted to create and support our brothers and sisters in Israel.”

Yalla organizers heard from students of every branch of Judaism; those unaffiliated; and those of many other religions. Some had been to Israel; for others, the Jewish homeland was never in their consciousness. However, in that moment, it was all many of them could think about. 

Yalla funds shared to the FIDF have helped provide medical supplies, plasma, tourniquets, GoPro cameras (for search and rescue teams) and more.

“These young men and everyone participating in their efforts are our hope. We’ve seen such support from this generation,” said Janine Reutter, director of FIDF North Texas. “They mobilized so quickly and everything they’ve done has been so meaningful.”

Feinstein and Winton, who have known one another all their lives, have over the years had independent and family visits to Israel. In 2022, the two spent a summer living together in Israel when Feinstein interned as a Birthright Israel Excel fellow and Winton interned at HLC Equity. In 2023, Feinstein returned to intern with SpaceIL.

“We have friends who we met last year serving in the IDF and we had to do something. We had no choice but to connect to other students and to hold on to one another,” said Winton. “There were more protests and more antisemitism and yet, it was very special to be a part of something that was positive in the middle of so much hate and vitriol.”

Winton added that young people have an obligation to speak up to injustice when it presents itself. “We believe that the money we’ve raised and educational content driven by young people on college campuses worldwide will provide a platform for pro-Israel advocacy within their communities.” 

Yalla can be followed on Instagram @yallaforisrael. For more information, to make a donation or to send a message to an IDF soldier, visit yallaforisrael.com.

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