The Heritage House
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The Heritage House is a non-profit youth hostel in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Founded in 1985 by Rabbi Meir Schuster, it offers free or subsidized lodging to Jews from around the world. The hostel provides young Jewish adults with information on touring, studying, intern, and work opportunities in Israel, in addition to providing follow-up connections, especially with the Jewish communities back in their home towns around the world.
Meir Schuster opened the Heritage House non-profit youth hostels in 1985 in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem in order to give Jewish young adults the opportunity to explore Israel and their heritage in a safe and home-like environment. It is the only Jewish-run youth hostel in the Old City.
After changes in leadership, the organization split into two separate entities. The Men's house, led by Rabbi Ben Packer, moved to a location near the Hurva Synagogue. The Women's house, led by Chaya Weisberg, remained at its original location.
Apart from lodgings, the Heritage House provides a range of services designed to help guests explore Israel and Judaism, including free tours, information on educational programs, internship and volunteering opportunities.
There is a special optional program every Shabbat. One of the highlights is Jeff Seidel, director of the Jewish Student Information Center, arranges for guests to spend Shabbat meals with Orthodox families. For many guests this is the first time they ever see traditional Jewish family life up close.
The High Holy days are the busiest time of the year for the Heritage House. An explanatory service is run in the Old City designed especially for beginners, although it attracts young Jews up to the age of 30 from all levels of observance.
Under the leadership of Packer, guests of the Jerusalem Heritage House for men take part in volunteer work restoring historical sites in Hebron and repairing synagogues and agricultural work at the vineyard in Kfar Tapuach and at locations in Israel.
The Heritage House consists of two buildings, one for men and one for women, which are in close proximity. The buildings date back to the Crusader period, with a medieval ambiance preserved through the stone walls and classic interior arches. Nevertheless, both buildings have modern renovations and extensions to cater to the comfort of the guests.
In a series of reports published in Haaretz between Nov. 13-14 2017, it was alleged that the men's Heritage House encourages guests to volunteer in illegal West Bank outposts, does not accept non-Jewish guests, and promotes a radical right-wing agenda. Following the reports, Birthright stopped promoting the hostel. While birthright conceded to this unverified expose, Aish among other Jerusalem centered foundations, continued their support. While they're are conflicting reports, the majority seem to indicate that the Heritage houses primary goal is reintroducing young Jewish peoples to the Holy Land Jerusalem. The women's Heritage House however is considered definitively apolitical and is a separate legal entity.
- Kempinski, Yoni (Sep 27, 2015). "Planting Trees Post-Shmita in the Shomron". Israel National News.
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