In May of last year, a series of devastating tornadoes hit the state of Oklahoma. Schools, houses, churches, none were immune to the high winds sweeping across the middle of the country. From the initial tornado that ravaged the suburbs of Oklahoma City, thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged. Just two short weeks later, as the city began to rebuild, more tornadoes came through the same path.
That is where our students enter the picture. Oklahoma University (OU) Hillel’s Executive Director, Suzy Sostrin-Rainer suggested a new location for some of the local Hillels looking for a domestic destination for their Alternative Break. One hundred fifty students from around the country answered the call to help a community in need.
OU Hillel and Hillel International have worked closely with the Jewish Disaster Response Corps (JDRC), to make sure that when the students arrive they are warmly welcomed and given tasks that will truly rebuild a community. For those of you unfamiliar with the JDRC: The JDRC is a faith-based initiative that assists all communities in domestic disaster recovery while exhibiting Jewish values and promoting broad and visible Jewish participation. OU Hillel and JDRC are also working in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity and the Oklahoma Disaster Recovery Project—a collaboration of agencies including but not limited to, American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, The Salvation Army, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and The Oklahoma United Methodist Church.
The traveling students eat all their meals at OU Hillel. Through a curriculum developed by Hillel International’s Ask Big Questions, the students of OU Hillel are leading conversations with the traveling students from Jewish Disaster Relief Corps. Most pertinent and leading to much discussion was the question “For Whom are We Responsible?”
Sostrin-Rainer said, “Our neighbors have lost their homes, and college students from across the country have come to help us. That is very touching. We ask that our students be a blessing to their community. These students have are not only blessings to their community, but to all they touch."
Photo courtesy of JDRC.