Last week, NJ NCSY ran its first ever joint chesed mission with Yachad to New Orleans, LA. Thus far, NJ NCSY, under the direction of Rabbi Ethan Katz, has run close to 90 service missions with numerous schools. Including Yachad in this mission upgraded the overall experience for all involved.
On this mission, Yachad teens with developmental disabilities were joined by a group of teens from Ma’ayanot and staff to spend their first day volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. They worked on rebuilding the home of a young woman who was forced to leave New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was finally, 13 years later, able to rebuild in the place she calls home.
Next the group toured the Lower 9th Ward, visited the kevarim of the destroyed sifrei kodesh that were destroyed and the site of the original Beth Israel shul, which was destroyed during the hurricane.
Friday was spent volunteering with a grassroots organization called Green Light, in which we went to various homes in the New Orleans area installing energy efficient light bulbs – a seemingly simple task but was incredibly important for the residents.
The participants learned a lot during the trip about the value of their time and tzedakah, while gaining a much deeper appreciation of being a part of Am Yisrael. On top of all of this, including Yachad participants added an element that brought meaning and enjoyment to a new level for the mission. Everyone, regardless of school, background or ability worked together to help people in need. It was incredible to see how everyone interacted with tremendous acceptance and joy.