A group of 12 students at the all-girls’ Ma’ayanot High School in Teaneck will form a New Jersey NCSY Disaster Relief team that will travel to Minnesota from Wednesday, May 4-Sunday, May 8 under the leadership of Rabbi Ethan Katz, New Jersey NCSY Associate Regional Director. There, they will assist in on-going rebuilding efforts in Oronoco Park, which experienced three to six feet of water last October as a result of an overflow of the Zumbro, a tributary of the Mississippi River, and where flooding is expected again this spring as the snow melts. The girls will also participate in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® 5K Walk on Sunday, May 8 in Bloomington. Additionally, the students will be providing spiritual support for the local Jewish community, spending Shabbat with teens in Minnesota.
NCSY | Jewish Youth Leadership is the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union.
For the past two years, New Jersey NCSY has taken all-boys’ and co-ed groups to sites of natural disasters, such as New Orleans and Galveston, TX, or urban renewal, such as Buffalo.
This is the first NCSY all-girls team sent to assist in relief work.
Participating students include: Emily Blumenfeld, Molly Brodsky, Chani Colton, Chani Dubin, Rebecca Lipschitz, Daniella Meyer, Natali Moyal, Gali Sadek, Julie Schwartz, Daniella Steinreich, Racheli Weil and Ilana Weinberger.
Declared Rabbi Katz, “The NCSY leadership mission is training top students to be tomorrow’s leaders today. Each student was selected based upon her own merits. We are taking top staff to best motivate those students, to help them become more knowledgeable and caring about what is going on in the world. The girls will be given meaningful work, often demanding, and open to schedule changes due to what is deemed most beneficial for the communities in need. It is a disaster relief mission -- it is a chesed mission. This is not a class fieldtrip.”
Mrs. Rivka Kahan, Principal of Ma’ayanot, said, “I'm happy that our students will have the opportunity to apply the values of chesed (loving-kindness) and community service in a context that allows them to meet people whose lives are very different from their own. I hope that this will encourage them to think more broadly about ways in which they can contribute to the world, and to develop a greater sense of empathy and connection with communities both near and far.”
According to Ariella Steinreich, Ma’ayanot’s Community Service Coordinator and Rabbi Zev Prince, a teacher of Talmud and Halacha and trip co-coordinator, “We approached New Jersey NCSY asking if we could run a joint mission. We had heard very positive things about similar programs that New Jersey NCSY ran with other schools and felt that our students would benefit from a program like this.”
New Jersey NCSY worked with Nechama: The Jewish Response to Disaster, a Minnesota-based organization that provides volunteer assistance to communities, to coordinate relief work plans and locations. During past relief trips by New Jersey NCSY, the work included clearing debris, cleaning communal playgrounds, painting walls (interior and exterior), removing floorboards, painting shingles, sawing wood, lugging sheet rock, and stuffing insulation into walls.
Amy Cytron, Nechama Administrator & Development Associate, stated, “Girls can do as much as what any boys can do. A 16-year old girl can use a power washer. Everyone must wear protective gear. A lot of what needs to be done is shlepping. It’s empathy. It’s respect. These girls will bring a lot of needed enthusiasm into the communities.”
Joining Rabbi Katz and Rabbi Prince as faculty will be Miriam Apter, Fair Lawn Chapter Advisor, and Ma’ayanot Athletic Director, Mrs. Eileen Schwartz. Upon returning from the trip, students will be required to complete a project revolving around their experience.
Noted Ms. Steinreich, “It is very exciting to see the enthusiasm our students have in wanting to help others. An intricate part of our learning experience is to infuse our students with a commitment to community service. We are proud of our students and are confident they will make an important contribution while engaging in disaster relief in Minnesota. We look forward to our students sharing their stories and experiences upon their return.”
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