April 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

On Labor Day Break, YU Students Travel to Baton Rouge to Fight Flood Damage

New York—For most college students, Labor Day is a last chance to relax and unwind before the fall semester’s barrage of classes, exams and research papers. But for a group of Yeshiva University students, the break was an opportunity to change lives.

This holiday weekend, 12 undergraduates traveled to the flood-ravaged city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where they partnered with NECHAMA’s disaster relief efforts to help local residents clear debris from their homes and salvage whatever possessions they could. The students spent their days ripping up wooden floorboards and moldy carpets, taking rotting doors off hinges and carrying ruined countertops and dressers to the curb.

Over Shabbat, they worked with the local Chabad to coordinate Torah readings, prayer services and youth groups.

“There are some university campuses that will be engaged in flood relief, there are some yeshivot that will sit and delve into the Talmudic and rabbinic sources discussing the Torah perspective on helping Jews and the larger society, but only at Yeshiva University will you prepare for a flood relief mission with in-depth study of the Talmudic sources, make sure that accommodations are consistent with the needs of observant relief workers and then fully engage in the flood-relief volunteer efforts as part of the greater community,” said Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, vice president for university and community life at YU.

For Leah Feygel, a senior, participating in the mission helped her internalize the values that have imbued every part of her educational experience at YU and take them to the next level. “While other college students enjoyed the last moments of summer over Labor Day vacation, YU gave us an opportunity to test the lessons that they have imparted in our classrooms and to participate in something even more meaningful,” she said.

The most important lesson Feygel learned was about the importance of initiative and taking that first step, despite uncertainties. “While I was thinking about how 12 students, like myself, inexperienced in flood relief, would be able to help in this situation, we still went ahead and did it,” she said. “There was a power to our number and to our drive, and while we are not experienced flood relievers, we became experienced helpers.”

For Daniel Geller, another senior, it was a moment in the fourth and worst house his group helped to clear out that really struck him. “We were exhausted from the intense labor of the past few days, but when we arrived we were greeted by the owner, who was praising God for sending such great people to help her,” he said. “I walked away with the sense that I had positively impacted the lives of those suffering from disaster.”

“All of my life I have been taught that if it is in my power, it’s my obligation to help those in need,” Geller added. “I am very fortunate to attend a university that holds the same values and empowers its students to make an impact in areas that need our help. It is incredibly meaningful to feel you have made a difference in disaster areas.”

The mission was sponsored by Neal’s Fund, Harry Ballan and Beryl and Doreen Eckstein.

By JLNJ Staff

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