By Nathan Rothstein
In late August of 2005, a hurricane started brewing in the Gulf, gained momentum, and struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast and southern Louisiana. As we now know, the levees that the Army Corps of Engineers maintained, failed, and the rest is history. Deep in the comfort of my college bubble in Amherst, MA, my connection to New Orleans was as weak as the levees that had failed the city. I saw the images of black people waiting at the Superdome and Convention Center -- but then I switched the channel.
Sometimes a college student still needs some pushing from his mother to make social change. I was no exception. In the fall, my mother had received a newsletter from the Hillel about an Alternative Spring Break Trip to the Gulf Coast. She picked up the phone and encouraged me to sign up. The Jewish community, like many other religious communities, had responded immediately to the disaster, in many ways shaming the government's failure to assist Americans in the disaster zone. By January of 2006, Hillel was already sending down hundreds of college students from around the country to do relief work.