Sixteen Ma’ayanot sophomores and juniors, hopped on a plane on Wednesday, October 23, for NCSY’s Unity Build Mission to New Orleans. Accompanying them were NCSY Director of Disaster Relief Missions Rabbi Ethan Katz, New Jersey NCSY Regional Director Rabbi Aryeh Wielgus, four additional NCSY staff members and Ma’ayanot Dean of Students Bailey Braun. Ma’ayanot is celebrating a decade of working with NCSY missions, which give students the broadening and enriching opportunity to help others, cement friendships, travel and encounter new communities.
Braun explained, “The most powerful part of the trip for me was having the opportunity to watch our students grow, reflect and give with their whole selves. The students were shocked by both the physical devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the spiritual devastation of a once-thriving religious community. The students worked wholeheartedly at the Habitat for Humanity worksite, davened with deep kavana at the very spot where a synagogue was destroyed by the hurricane, and stretched themselves by recognizing both their capacity to give and the many blessings in their own lives. Witnessing the girls reflect on their own Jewish identity and its meaning, I felt very privileged to be part of this one-of-a-kind experience that allowed me to bond with the students outside of a classroom setting.”
Building and painting a house for someone in need “gave me a sense of accomplishment,” said sophomore Keren Glicksman. “Every inch of paint on this home was put there by a Ma’ayanot student,” said Braun. Hard work was also lightened with some fun; Students enjoyed visiting the New Orleans attractions Rock’n’Bowl and Cafe Du Monde, where they sampled New Orleans’ famous beignets. The consensus from all the students who participated was that the Ma’ayanot-NCSY mission was “awesome!”