San Diego Jewish World
Donald H. Harrison
July 2, 2021
SAN DIEGO — The leadership of the House of Israel in Balboa Park is less worried today about the possible burnout of their volunteers. which could have led to the organization being unable to keep the doors open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. That in turn could have led to the House of Israel, a Balboa Park fixture since 1948, being forced to relinquish its cottage and being replaced by the house of another nation.
Among national groups waiting for a cottage of their own are Chamorras, India, Korea, Mexico, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Philippines, and Turkey
The pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs has come to the House of Israel’s rescue.
The House of Israel had been closed during the coronavirus pandemic, but along with the other international cottages at the House of Pacific Relations, located across the street from the Organ Pavilion, it will be reopening this weekend, Saturday, July 3, and Sunday, July 4.
After conferring by telephone with House of Israel president Ruth Maston, the interim director of the San Diego office of StandWithUs, Yael Steinberg, issued this statement:
"We are thrilled that the House Of Israel is finally re-opening. House of Israel does incredible work reaching people of all faiths and ages and connecting them to the ancestral land and history of Israel and the Jewish People. Keeping this educational opportunity available to visitors from around the world and all walks of life is a big priority for us and so important for San Diego.
“We are immensely grateful to Ruth for all of her work these many years as a volunteer. We are very excited to continue to support everything that they have done in terms of sharing our materials and bringing our young teen high school interns and Emerson fellows there. I look very forward to being a part of its continuation and help fulfill our shared mission of Israel education.”
Emerson Fellows are appointed by StandWithUs from the pro-Israel student bodies at various universities throughout the country, including two in San Diego County: SDSU and UC San Diego. These students coordinate cultural activities and Israel advocacy programs on their respective campuses, drawing upon a cadre of volunteers. According to Steinberg, StandWithUs anticipates being able to tap into this resource to help staff the House of Israel.
Maston said that two to four people are needed each shift at the House of Israel to answer visitors’ questions and to serve free bourekas. The volunteers need to know about Israel, its peoples, its cultural attractions, and be able to handle whatever questions the visitors may have. She said even though Israel is in the news frequently, many people do not know where Israel is located (along the Eastern Mediterranean) nor how big it is (approximately the size of New Jersey) nor how many people live there. (Nearly 9 million)
Steinberg said Emerson Fellows and other volunteers receive extensive education not only about these basic facts, but also about Israel’s history, its cultural development, its industries, geography, and national resources.
The missions of the House of Israel and StandWithUs are “a good fit,” Steinberg and Maston agreed in separate interviews with San Diego Jewish World.
Besides StandWithUs, individual members of the Jewish community have offered to serve as volunteers in response to Maston’s call for help issued earlier this year. At that time, she said that many of the House’s volunteers are elderly and may be unable to keep devoting weekends to the House of Israel. With the suffusion of new volunteers, she expressed confidence that the House of Israel can continue its mission of educating the public and winning friends for the country.
Steinberg said she would be reaching out in the near future to Emerson Fellows, board members and various StandWithUs volunteers to help fill the volunteer slots at the House of Israel.
Read the article here.