image
In Joplin, Mo., Yaakov Taubes (on left) and Tuvia Brander do some helpful lifting. Courtesy Yeshiva University

Yeshiva University students who went on the annual Kansas City Summer Experience program this year took a side trip to help out those in need.

YU’s Kansas City Summer Experience is part of the Center for the Jewish Future, and allows eight students to visit Kansas City in the summer to help the Jewish community there.

This year, while in Kansas City, the students also took a trip to Joplin.

Joplin was torn apart by tornadoes that killed over 150 people on May 21. The YU students took the two-hour drive to Joplin on June 12, accompanied by congregants from Beth Israel Avraham Voliner (BIAV) and Beth Torah, two synagogues from the Kansas City area.

Said Tuvia Brander of Teaneck, a recent YU graduate and the leader of the program, “As much as you read about the news, once you’re there it takes on a whole different life.”

Brander thought of doing disaster-relief work in Joplin about a week before the trip. The trip was planned in conjunction with the American Red Cross and AmeriCorps, a domestic version of the Peace Corps.

The students, Brander said, sorted through debris in order to make hauling it away easier. They also looked for personal objects and found things such as a Social Security card, pictures, and a play doll.

Brander believes that “Helping people in need is an important Jewish value that we can’t just talk about but have to do. We need to mobilize and be a force of help.”

Another Teaneck resident, Yaakov Taubes, was shocked by the amount of rubble in Joplin. “The destruction kept going and going and going,” he said. “Everything the Joplin residents had lived with their whole lives was gone.”

BIAV Rabbi Daniel Rockoff appreciated the students’ help. “Having the students be part of our community for the month has been a special experience,” he said. “I am especially proud of the positive example they have set throughout the entire Jewish community as spirited, observant Jews eager to engage the world around them.”

The students worked at internships during the day and helped out in the Jewish community at night. They worked at such places as the Midwest Research Institute, Children’s Mercy Hospital, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City, Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, Kansas City JCC, and Metro Title Services.

At night, the students learned Torah with the Jewish community as well as gave shiurim at the local synagogue.