StandWithUs San Diego invites the community to the lively sixth annual Festival of lights “I Heart Israel” gala. StandWithUs (SWU) is a 16-year-old international Israel education organization with chapters throughout the U.S., in Israel, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Tickets are selling fast for the December 2nd event, being held at the elegant Marriott Marquis Hotel. The reception begins at 6:30 p.m. Foreign policy expert Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the U.N. is the keynote speaker. He will provide an insider’s view of the Iran deal and how it affects U.S-Israel relations. Yahya Mahamid, 19, an Israeli-Arab-Zionist will share his courageous journey from being raised to hate Israel to becoming a StandWithUs educator and defender of the Jewish state. Jetting in from Israel is KIPPALIVE, the most popular finalists in Israel’s “X Factor” will also perform at the event. Dinner co-chairs are Natalie Josephson and Jaime Feder.
Josephson and Feder, both long-time San Diegan residents, felt inspired to join the local StandWithUs Board of Advisors, when they witnessed the anti-Israel mock apartheid walls at two San Diego college campuses – UCSD and SDSU. The events prompted them to take action – by educating others about Israel and furthering the cause of StandWithUs in San Diego. Having co-planned many San Diego charitable events in the past, Jaime and Natalie’s vision and creativity for the evening program will surely leave guests delighted.
“As I see my kids grow, I realize nothing is more important to me than their education, safety, and knowledge of truth and facts about Israel,” co-chair Feder said. “SWU does an amazing job connecting young people to their place in Israel’s story. They make education fun, edgy and popular.
Co-chair Josephson added: “[The organization] is the global leader in Israel education. I stand one hundred percent behind this outstanding organization and the work they accomplish with students and outreach.”
The Gala event will be a time to celebrate SWU SD and all that the organization has accomplished over the years.
SWU’s San Diego Board currently has 17 members. Board president, Mitch Danzig, esq. of the Mintz Levin law firm has provided his expertise pro bono to the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department. Rabbi Adam Wright recently joined the Board and on behalf of SWU SD, addressed Templo La Hermosa about the strong Judeo-Christian alliance at a “Night To Honor Israel.” Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) was the guest speaker at the Hertzl dinner. He compelled members to fight anti-Semitism and bigotry by encouraging dissemination of more balanced information to the masses and media. (The Hertzl membership level is $5,000 or more and entitles members to attend exclusive dinners during the year with inspiring speakers as well as special events.)
This September, SWU SD celebrated the launch of the “Guardians of Israel Club.” Guests absorbed fascinating tidbits from Sommelier Jonathan Adkisson and heard a powerful presentation by Jordanian-Muslim Abe Haak. Raised to resent Israel, Haak now considers himself a Zionist. (Membership at this level comes at a cost of $2,500 annually).
The SWU SD “Campus Crash Course” had its inaugural event in September and is certain to be a perennial. Teaming parents and teachers with San Diego students and SWU staff, it kicks off the academic year with attendees prepared and energized to educate about Israel.
Guests at the “I Heart Israel” gala will meet the local 2017-18 SWU High School Interns and college Emerson Fellows. Since 2001, the Emerson Fellowship has selected and trained student leaders to educate their peers about Israel and combat anti-Israel rhetoric. This year’s Emerson Fellows are Ariana Arakelian from SDSU and Orr Toledano from UCSD. Created in 2012, one goal of the SWU High School Internship is to prepare students for the anti-Israel related challenges they may face as college students. Trevor Lyons attends San Diego Jewish Academy and Karen Ptashek is at Canyon Crest Academy. The students attended their respective August training conferences in Los Angeles and are already making a difference in their schools.
Additionally, SWU just launched a middle school curriculum, “LINK — Discovering Your Israel Connection” The 6-lesson unit allows students to explore the historic Jewish roots to Israel while discovering their own personal, modern connection. San Diego Jewish Academy was one of the test schools in LINK’s pilot testing this year. Jeremy Toren, Director of Jewish Life and Judaic Studies, Maimonides Upper School states, “We at San Diego Jewish Academy were thrilled at the opportunity to participate in the LINK pilot program and are excited to continue using the rich curricula in a variety of classes this year to gear up for our annual Israel Education Week. We place high value on our partnership with StandWithUs, as they do a wonderful job of enhancing the quality of our Israel education programs.”
Yahya Mahamid grew up in Umm el-Fahm, an Arab city in Israel that is run by the Islamic movement and rife with hatred of Israel. By connecting with Israelis, Mahamid used his own experiences to change his mindset. The StandWithUs Israel office contacted him and he joined the group as an educator. Recently, Mahamid traveled to South African college campuses to confront the “Israel Apartheid Week” with the SWU delegation. Despite constant heckling, he explained why he supports the Jewish state. He posted a video in Arabic upon learning that the terrorists who killed the Israeli soldiers at the Temple Mount were from his hometown.
Arab citizens of Israel are not required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, yet in an extraordinary move, Mahamid enlisted as a volunteer. He is on a North American speaking tour prior to starting his service.
“Together, we will continue to empower the community and students, and support Israel wherever possible,” he said.
Sara Miller is the Executive Director of StandWithUs San Diego. For more information on the I Heart Israel gala and to purchase tickets, visit: www.standwithus.com/iheartisrael17, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at (858) 598-822