June 15, 2024
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June 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Demonstrating Our Values

(Courtesy of NCSY) During a time when antisemitism is on the rise and so many people are demonstrating pro or against, we at NCSY Relief Missions are demonstrating our values.

We just had our first full blown chesed mission in over a year. We brought a group of day-school and public-school teens from Dallas, Texas to New Orleans, Louisiana.

From the airport, the NCSYers went straight to Walmart, where they each spent $20 of their own money and bought products to put on the shelves at Burnell’s grocery store. Who is Burnell? He runs the only grocery store in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, and the area hit the worst by Hurricane Katrina. Burnell has pictures on his wall of him with former president Barack Obama, with Mark Zuckerberg and with other famous people as well. He was also featured on Ellen. The teens filled his shelves with the items they bought, allowing Burnell to sell them at a discounted price. We also ran the first-ever kosher, free, community BBQ and salad bar, providing the locals with a healthy, hot meal. Burnell told us that “so many people come and make promises but you, on the other hand, didn’t promise me anything but delivered more than almost anyone else.” He explained to the teens with tears in his eyes about the struggle to provide food for the mothers who cannot feed their children and for the people in need in his community. He said how we are helping to solve the food crisis and “God bless you. God bless the Jewish people.”

The next day, the teens volunteered with Habitat for Humanity helping to finish off a home for a man named Tom, his girlfriend and his four dogs. The teens worked in the New Orleans heat with sledgehammers, shovels and other tools to complete all the work they were given. The teens spoke to the Habitat workers about how important it was for them as Jews to come out and volunteer. On Friday, we volunteered with Greenlight New Orleans on a water conservation program.

The entire time, we wore our kippahs and NCSY swag proudly as we demonstrated our values of chesed and tikkun olam, spreading the goodness in the name of Judaism while at the same time strengthening our beliefs about our own Judaism. During the NCSY mission the teens were learning constantly with the staff, understanding fundamental values of Torah. The teens walked away feeling a tremendous sense of pride in their own Judaism.

If all this was not enough, the highlight came on Friday night at shul. We met a father and daughter from Israel who have been living in New Orleans for five months as the 23-year-old daughter is waiting for a liver transplant.

After speaking with them, we learned that this was only the second time she had the strength to go to shul, the last time being Seder night. She did not know why suddenly she had the strength to come but thankfully she did. Friday night as we danced in shul, she was able to participate, which brought a smile and joy into her life. While I was speaking with them, I learned that they spend all day, every day in the apartment waiting for the call that they have a liver waiting for her. The question was asked, “Couldn’t they preorder an Uber to drive them back Friday night?” They responded that they have complete and total emunah and bitachon—faith and belief in God and were not looking for leniency or a way out. The discussion we had with the teens after was about this young woman, Sapir Bat Ariella, who has not seen her husband in five months, who cannot get pregnant, who is waiting for a liver and yet, she is not mad at God, she has complete faith. She is grateful for her father’s love and support, she is grateful to God for giving her hope, and she will not “find a way” to be driven on Shabbat. As we explained to the NCSYers, it was not a coincidence that we were there for our first mission and it was not a coincidence that she felt better that day. It was the hand of God giving us the opportunity to do true chesed with her and God giving her more hope and more joy.

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