Time off to do good

Time off to do good

Area college students are finding that they can see the world and save it at the same time.

This winter — through organizations such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, American Jewish World Service, Hillel, Jewish Funds for Justice, Jewish National Fund, and Yeshiva University — students from across the United States are combining public service with travel to the West Coast and Gulf Coast as well as to Latin America, Eastern Europe, Israel, and Thailand.

This month, 19-year-old River Vale resident Rebecca Solomon will travel with Hillel to New Orleans with ‘4 other volunteers to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in ‘005. Rebecca, a sophomore at Ramapo College and a psychology major, will participate in a program sponsored by Habitat for Humanity and Nechama, a volunteer organization providing relief for communities hit by natural disasters.

Having never been on this sort of program before, Rebecca said she is "excited to help out." In addition, she said, she sees this kind of volunteer service as an important role "that everyone must fulfill," noting that when faced with the tragedy of a natural disaster, "any community would want that sort of outside help."

Dana Fishweicher from Fair Lawn, a junior at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, will go to Thailand through YU’s Center for the Jewish Future. She said that the trip will offer a "unique opportunity to open my eyes to social justice issues."

Dana, a psychology major, said she is not just going for the travel experience. Calling the program a "huge kiddush HaShem" (sanctification of God’s name), she said that "it is important to show that Jews are in touch with other people’s needs."

Chava Chaitovsky, who also attends Stern College, plans to participate in YU’s "Coast to Coast" project, which reaches out to Jewish communities in the U.S. The program, which will be held Jan. 13 to ‘1, is run through the Center for the Jewish Future in association with the Charles and Lyn Schusterman Family Foundation.

Majoring in Jewish studies and psychology, the Teaneck resident said she wants to "share the benefits" of her Jewish education, visiting Jewish communities throughout the country that "may not have the sense of community" that she enjoys in her hometown. In addition to leading family learning programs and participating in volunteer projects, Chava said she hopes to demonstrate that "modern Orthodox Jews don’t practice Judaism because it is a career, but [as] a lifestyle choice."

Students with the "C’C" project will run programs in elementary schools and community centers throughout California, speaking on topics such as the connection between Tu B’Shevat and caring for the environment. Also participating in the program is Uri Westrich, a junior at Yeshiva College. The ”-year-old Teaneck resident said that he looks forward to experiencing California through "helping kids in a number of communities and meeting people from different backgrounds, Jewish and non-Jewish."

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