A joint Shabbaton between San Diego NCSY and Phoenix NCSY ended recently with a special Sunday afternoon activity: NCSYers packed more than 400 lunches for the homeless in conjunction with Project Rescue Party, an organization dedicated to aiding the indigent in San Diego.
Adam Simon, San Diego NCSY director, said he chose to work with Project Rescue Party because of the nature of its mission.
“Their mission is not only to end hunger but bring hope,” Simon explained. “It’s not about giving a handout but breaking the stereotype that homeless people are a different part of society.”
After the teens packed the lunches, they spent the rest of Sunday, Feb. 16 giving them out and meeting with the homeless population in San Diego. According to a 2012 study by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, San Diego has the third- largest homeless population in the United Sates, only lagging behind New York City and Los Angeles.
Simon said he witnessed a change in his NCSYers that day.
“Kids initially went into their shells but as the day drew on we saw them come out,” he said. “They started having positive interactions and got rid of the stigma.”
After the activity ended, he said, teens brainstormed other ways they could help the homeless, like providing them with socks, an especially sought-after item.
“NCSY youth brought mitzvah to our movement and demonstrated compassion in action in a way that I have not seen from young people in my 15 plus years of community service,” said Project Rescue Party founder Brett Bird Matson. “It is organizations and youth like NCSY that remind me that that our mission is possible.”
Most teens didn’t know much about the severity of the issue.
“I was unaware of how grave the problem,” said Eli Milstein, 17, president of San Diego NCSY. “It was a great experience to just get an understanding of what’s really going on ten minutes from my home.”
“All of us are suburban kids and we don’t think about the homeless,” added Hannah Sragovicz, 17, a senior at Torah High School of San Diego.
Rabbi Micah Greenland, International Director of NCSY, said that event embodied one of the goals of NCSY.
“NCSYers learn that they’re citizens of a larger world and they have to take their Jewish values and use them to make the world a better place,” he explained.
The joint Shabbaton had a special focus on Torah learning and the event finished with one final lesson.
“Teens on this NCSY Shabbaton learned that just because someone’s homeless doesn’t mean they’re not a person,” said Simon.