Nobody shows up to hear Israeli humanitarian speak

Navoenel Glick was scheduled to speak at Mount Allison University the Monday before last, but nobody showed up to hear him.

As the sole attendee of the March 4 event, The Argosy sat down with Glick for an interview to discuss his work.

Glick is the program director of an Israel-based NGO called IsraAID. The organization focuses on providing disaster relief in the wake of crises around the world, but the group will stay for years afterward in order to ensure long-term recovery. Glick said he is often one of the first on the plane when disaster strikes. He has worked in several countries with IsraAID, such as Sudan, Haiti, and Japan.

Glick said he was planning on sharing some of his experiences, and hoped to address some common misconceptions about humanitarian work.

“People [often] have no idea what [humanitarian work] is, or they think it’s just feeding starving African babies,” Glick explained.

“A lot of NGOs and people with good intentions do more harm than good,” Glick said. “Good intentions are not enough.”

Glick said NGOs need to be careful with their use of volunteers, as inexperienced foreigners need a lot of training and can be a liability for an organization.

Glick said that those considering volunteering abroad need to think critically, and face “hard truths” as they might lack the skills to contribute in a meaningful way. He was also critical of very short-term volunteer placements, which do not “tangibly change anything.”

Some volunteers might be more helpful by simply sending money to well-respected NGOs, he said, emphasizing that humanitarianism is professional work, with its own “guidelines and professional skills.”

Naomi Rosenfeld, director of the Hillel of Atlantic Canada, works with Jewish Student Associations across the region. She facilitated Glick’s week-long tour, which included stops at universities in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.

Rosenfeld said she was hoping other groups based at Mt. A would help promote the event, and had reached out to a wide variety of student groups and professors who did not respond.

Rosenfeld speculated that the poor attendance and lack of interested collaborators for the event was possibly due to heavy workloads and poor timing, given that the event occurred just after reading week and a three-week long faculty strike.

One campus organization was not impressed with their experience with Hillel.

The Atlantic International Studies Organization (ATLIS), a student group that publishes a peer-reviewed journal of student research, initially did not respond to a request from Rosenfeld to co-host the event.

ATLIS President Sydney Logan said days later a student approached her from the Jewish Students Association who knew Rosenfeld, asking if ATLIS would agree to help promote the event. Logan said she agreed to promote the event, but did not sign on as a co-host. In an interview with The Argosy, she explained that ATLIS did not generally host speakers outside their annual conference.

On the day of the event, Logan found ATLIS listed as a co-host on promotional materials, and that the group’s logo was being used without their permission. She subsequently deleted a link to the event from ATLIS’ Facebook page, and asked Rosenfeld to remove the ATLIS logo.

Rosenfeld apologized and removed ATLIS as a co-host from the event. Both parties said there was miscommunication. Rosenfeld told The Argosy that ATLIS was not involved with the event in any capacity.

The Jewish Students Association at Mt. A said they were not involved with the event, and declined further comment.

The Facebook event created by Rosenfeld to promote Glick’s appearance listed only six invited guests.

Rosenfeld said the poor attendance should not reflect on Glick’s presentation. “It’s really too bad that the students missed out on what would have been an interesting talk,” she said.

Rosenfeld said the other events on Glick’s Atlantic tour were “very successful” and that efforts to collaborate with other local groups elsewhere were more fruitful.

“As the organizer of the event […] I learned a lot about going about [organizing a speaking tour], and hopefully if we have another chance to bring a speaker to Sackville, it’ll be more organized and better advertised,” Rosenfeld said, adding that it was her first time organizing a speaking tour.

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