Though four months have passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Jewish students nationwide continue to put relief efforts at the forefront of their minds. Hillel is partnering with numerous Jewish and relief organizations to bring 300 students and professionals this winter and spring to clean up areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.
The project begins next month, when 16 campus Hillels from coast to coast will send 150 students on one of two weeklong alternative breaks in Gulfport, Miss. Students will remove debris, cart trees, help with basic rebuilding projects, speak with residents and clean the build-up of mold in people's homes.
"I'm looking forward to doing my part to help the survivors of the hurricane. It's really amazing that I'm going to be able to do this with other Jewish students from around the country," said Stephanie Burton, a senior at The George Washington University who will be joining the first group of volunteers. "It's a Jewish obligation to help all people in need, and it excites me to see that this project is going forward."
Hillel's Weinberg Tzedek Hillel program, an international public-service and social-justice initiative, has organized the January trips with the help of Nechama: Jewish Response to Disaster, the United Jewish Communities and the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Gulfport. The church is also working closely with the local Jewish community and other religious institutions to establish an Interfaith Disaster Relief Task Force.
Planning is also underway for an additional three Hillel delegations to travel to Gulf Coast in March, offering another 150 students the opportunity to take part in the rebuilding.
"Our students were among the first to volunteer for hurricane relief immediately after the storm, and I am so proud that they will be continuing with this essential project during their winter and spring vacations," Hillel President Avraham Infeld said. "They truly embody the Jewish imperative of tikkum olam, repairing the world."