By Faith Koh
On Tuesday Eva Borgwardt ’20 missed a phone call. Seeing an unrecognized number, she almost didn’t call Marc Tessier-Lavigne back. But when she did, she was notified that she was one of 62 nationwide individuals selected to receive the 2019 Truman Scholarship, a prestigious award that grants its recipients up to 30,000 dollars to pursue a higher degree in education.
In Borgwardt’s case, a higher degree may mean law school and the chance to equip herself even further with the skills to continue her advocacy efforts. Borgwardt is currently national president of J Street U, the campus organizing branch of pro-Israel and pro-peace groups advocating for the United States to pursue a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine.
J Street refers to the fact that in Washington D.C., one can walk H, I and K street and find that J Street is conspicuously missing. In the same way, J Street, the organization, represents the missing voice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the end, Borgwardt’s work focuses on making voices heard. In her own travels to Israel, she has seen the ways in which certain narratives have been infringed upon in what she describes as a sort of “catch-22.” While the governments of Palestine, and Israel and its security and laws provide ethical dilemmas but also the opportunity, according to Borgwardt, to finally talk about US Israel Relations.
“My people can’t permanently occupy another people,” she said. “The whole situation is hopeful but scary.”
Because Borgwardt is Jewish, she refers to Israeli people as her people. When asked what role being Jewish has played in her advocacy work, Borgwardt said that there was a time when she had wanted to become a Rabbi herself. She maintains that “humility” is the most important thing that religion has taught her when approaching her work.
During her time at Stanford, Borgwardt has been involved in much more than the Jane Stanford Fellowship and J Street U. She also participates actively in The Stanford Shakespeare company, where she designs and presents theater to local youth. She periodically leads Shabbat services at Hillel and has helped to found Stanford’s Jewish Social Justice Collective, an organization which holds teach-ins about Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
Like in high school, where her interest in the Palestinian Israeli conflict was first sparked at a Black Lives Matter event, she still attends protests in the area. Borgwardt has also been a counselor at Stanford Sierra Camp — a summer camp for Stanford alumni and their families — an experience which she describes as cultivating joy and essential to her service journey.
Borgwardt hopes to use the Truman Scholarship to equip herself further with the intellectual tools necessary to continue effectively advocating for justice.
Contact Faith Koh at faithkoh ‘at’ stanford.edu.