In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO StandWithUs (SWU), an international Israel education organization recently stated, “We are very fortunate to have an educational mission that we can adapt to almost any platform, audience, or circumstance. As such, we have thankfully been able to use all our restricted funds for the same purpose as we have promised our donors. We continue to educate people of all ages and backgrounds about Israel, while vigorously fighting anti-Semitism.”
SWU has pivoted most of its work to social media and other online platforms for the time-being. SWU was one of the first organizations to launch a new and free initiative called StandWithUsConnect shortly after this crisis began, to offer people education and community from the comfort of home. This includes live English and Hebrew webinars; live, pre-recorded tours of Israel; videos; resources for kids; and added sessions open to high school and college students led by the organization’s high school and campus professionals.
SWU live webinars cover a multitude of topics from anti-Semitism to Israel’s history and strategic position; Israeli-Palestinian cooperation during COVID-19; Palestinian terrorism through the law; to virtual yoga classes and Krav Maga demonstrations with an Israeli touch. One special session with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks for Yom HaShoah featured a rare discussion with a Holocaust survivor and his grandson who works for SWU Israel.
“I am so proud of the San Diego Jewish community for staying strong during this time and thrilled that so many are listening to SWU webinars,” stated Condiotti. “I know people are depending on us as their go to resource, and we will not let them down as we meet our mission to support Israel and fight anti-Semitism. We will emerge stronger with many more activities in SD thanks to the community’s help!”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, StandWithUs various social media platforms have reached over 28 Million people. SWU’s zoom webinars fill up, with thousands more joining in live on its Facebook page. More than 100,000 people have already tuned in.
All the organization’s campus and high school work continues. The 2020-21 college Emerson Fellows and high school Interns have already been selected in cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Yosef Condiotti, director of StandWithUs San Diego reports this is the largest number of students ever for the region. In April, SWU Israel office launched their annual Israeli fellowship program through zoom.
As cases of anti-Semitism related to Coronavirus increase, SWU’s legal team is providing assistance and keeping a watchful eye for actionable incidents. In partnership with the Mizel Family Foundation, SWU is offering cash rewards to people who provide information to law enforcement that leads to the arrest and conviction of perpetrators of hate crimes against Jews or their property. Yosef Condiotti, and associate director Yael Steinberg are already in touch with San Diego’s police department.
LINK, SWU’s middle school curriculum continues in San Diego schools and synagogues and has created additional free online material for school at-home Israel engagement. The research and strategy team are still creating resources for students and other audiences, and the graphic designers are producing new materials.
“We are proud of how quickly our dedicated international team has adapted to this crisis,” Rothstein stated. “While we have no idea how long this will last, our talented staff will continue to fulfill our mission with the creativity and quality that all of our supporters and recipients have come to expect. The feedback we have received from our donors and target audiences continues to be completely appreciative as we weather this stressful storm.”