Twenty-five years after it opened its doors for the first time, Heritage House continues to make warm, welcoming lodging available to Jewish travelers from limited Jewish backgrounds, while it offers the opportunity to explore Israel and Judaism with no religious or other pressures. However, with the end of the backpacking “explore the world” era, there has been a significant shift in the “clientele” served.
Heritage House today mostly provides lodging to “Birthright extenders” (Birthright participants who extend their trips), to young people on a variety of volunteer programs, including kibbutzim, to university students, students on internships, aliyah pilot trips and even some new olim. Heritage House, molding to the needs of its constantly evolving population, serves as a resource center for all these self-directed youth, providing information about many programs available in Israel, including tourism, internships, kibbutzim, yeshivas, aliyah options, etc. so that each guest can find what is most fitting for him/her.
Important Note: While Rabbi Schuster z”TL has been forced to focus on his medical condition and unable to attend to his functions at the helm of “Heritage House” there have been some fundamental adjustments in the organization. Simply put, each of the locations is independantly run and operated on their own leadership. No longer under one umbrella. The Women’s Hostel has Rebbetzin Weisberg, The Men’s Hostel has Rabbi Ben Packer and each of the Shorashim centers are still under the guidance of HoRav Yirmyahu Abramov yet each center needs to reyly heavily on its own resources.
Each year approximately 2,000 young adults from limited Jewish backgrounds visit either the men’s or women’s Heritage House hostels. Sixty percent come from intermarried homes and date non-Jews. Seventy-five percent take Heritage House staff’s recommendations and attend nearby classes on Judaism. Alexis, from California, for instance, whose mother is Jewish and whose father is Moslem, enjoyed attending numerous classes while she stayed at the women’s Heritage House this past month. She is on an internship program during the week now, but Alexis returns every Shabbos to the Heritage House where she is the one initiating discussions with Heritage House staff members about continuing her relationship with her non-Jewish boyfriend.
Ninety percent of the young people who stay at Heritage House choose a “follow up” option to be connected to their Jewish community back home, wherever that may be around the world. Five percent extend their trips, not having to worry about where to stay, and actually make long-range plans to remain in Israel through Heritage House recommendations.
The Heritage House has also recently started networking with a wide range of secular programs. Exciting weekend events hosted by Heritage House, such as “Sushi Extravaganza”, “A Woman’s Inner and Outer Beauty” and “A Shabbos Experience” present wonderful guest speakers that draw participants from these various secular programs.
In honoring Reb Meir’s dream, Heritage House is an accepting, homey environment which is designed to be tailor-made for what each individual is ready to absorb. It offers its guests the experiences that will suit them best, in Israel and in their hometown communities. There is simply no other place like this.
Except for the bathrooms, nothing in Heritage House has been renovated in the past twenty-five years, so it is in need of some basic renovations. Heritage House is also seeking help in paying its mortgage each month.
A young guest who stayed at the Heritage House five years ago and revisited there recently put it so well, “That man is an angel! Rabbi Schuster helped guide me to the Heritage House when I was not sure where to stay in Israel. His vision and love for people is now building thousands of Jewish homes!”