April 12, 2024
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Mission Possible! Touro Students Do Their Part in Israel Over Winter Break

(Courtesy of Touro University) – Winter break for college students is often a time to soak up some sun in tropical climates or hit the slopes out West. This year, many chose instead to do their part to help ease the pain of the many people in Israel suffering since the brutal October 7 attack. A group of students from Touro University’s Lander College for Women headed off to Israel in early January on a mission they called “Leeby Bamizrach.”

Organized by psychologist Dr. Ditza Berger, a member of the Touro Guidance and Wellness Team, the mission’s goal was to help students better understand and empathize with the suffering of Jews in Israel, and translate that empathy into action, by contributing in whatever small ways were possible.

“The Lander College for Women mission to Israel expresses our school’s core values — support for Israel and its people and the connection between Israel and the Diaspora,” said Dr. Marian Stoltz-Loike, dean of Touro’s Lander College for Women.

Students shared that they hoped to gain a stronger appreciation for all that Am Yisrael is experiencing at this time, to give back to Eretz Yisrael, and support the Jewish people both emotionally and physically.

They rolled up their sleeves as soon as their plane touched down, making the most of their eight-day trip. From farmers to evacuees and soldiers, the students reached out to so many whose lives and livelihoods have been impacted by the war. They pruned a vineyard and tomato vines, ran activities for evacuated children, and visited wounded soldiers in Hadassah Har Hatzofim Hospital.

For many of the students, the high point of the trip was the opportunity to join 50,000 people at the massive Atzeret Tefillah at the Kotel on Erev Rosh Chodesh Shevat. One student shared, “We’re the only nation where everyone—from all walks of life—knows the same songs. I cried, ‘Hashem, these are all Your people, calling out to You.’”

Another student remarked, “Today, I really felt the matzav and saw how it’s impacting every member of klal Yisrael. Everyone was in tears.” Students were deeply moved by the overriding feeling of achdut.

Over the course of the trip, mission participants had the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with the wives and mothers of soldiers, evacuees of Sderot and Shlomit, and Israeli taxi drivers.

Additionally, Rabbi Shmuel Klammer, dean of Touro College Israel, organized a series of lectures for the participants about the history of the State of Israel, bitachon in difficult times, and personal accounts of people who lost loved ones on October 7.

Although they spent a little over a week in Israel, all the students on Touro’s “Leeby Bamizrach” mission left with a deeper appreciation of the realities of life in Eretz Yisrael at this moment and a stronger connection to the Jews living there.

Before embarking on the mission, one student said: “While our brothers and sisters in Israel are fighting for their lives and having their world torn apart, sitting in America just going about my life has felt inconsequential. Though I’ve been praying for Israel, signing petitions and sending whatever money I can, the fact is there’s only so much I can do from 6,000 miles away. This opportunity to go to Israel and give of myself in a real way is a chance to do my part in showing appreciation to the IDF, support for the displaced families, and helping the community in any way possible.” As another student put it, “These are our people. This is what we do. I am so proud to be a Jew.”

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