Student Video (select connection speed): LowJewish students across the country have been among the first to respond to calls for help from the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Many Hillels are collecting money to donate to relief efforts, and plans are already underway for alternative breaks this winter and spring to help with the rebuilding process in the affected region.
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Hillel professionals and lay leaders, along with colleagues from United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Federation of New Orleans, recently gathered on a conference call led by Hillel President Avraham Infeld to assess the needs of the students at affected colleges and universities and formulate a plan of action. Professionals and lay leaders from the Hillel Foundation of New Orleans are planning meetings for Tulane students and their parents across the country so they can maintain a sense of campus community as they make alternative educational plans for the near future. They have also launched a temporary Web site where students can keep in touch and find out the latest news about their campus. Hillel International Board of Governors member Carol Smokler, who is also chair of the UJC Emergency Committee, represented the Jewish community in a meeting with President Bush and other volunteer organizations who are active in relief efforts.
The following report will be updated daily as students demonstrate their commitment to tzedek (social justice) and tikkun olam (repairing the world).
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In the city with the most refugees, Houston Hillel prepared to assist displaced survivors before the hurricane hit land. Executive Director Rabbi Kenny Weiss, his colleagues and students mobilized quickly to arrange a blood drive, collect clothing and toiletries, and invite displaced students for Shabbat services and dinner. Houston Hillel also hosted a 10-person delegation from New York University that volunteered at the Astrodome over Labor Day weekend. Houston Hillel welcomes all students who come to Houston to volunteer and offers a place to sleep and shower. Contact Weiss at 713-526-4918 for more information about volunteer opportunities and accommodations.
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Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University
NYU's Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life sent a 10-person delegation of volunteers to Houston over Labor Day weekend to assist with relief efforts. Together with students from Rice University, they helped prepare the Brown Convention Center for an influx of evacuees, as well as working with those already settled in the Astrodome. The volunteers helped distribute food, clothing and shoes, and those with laptop computers helped register the evacuees in a new database system that will help them reconnect with their loved ones. Back in New York, students are putting together a jazz festival to raise money for relief efforts.
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Syracuse University Hillel
Syracuse students welcomed incoming transfer students from Tulane University at Hillel's Welcome Back Barbecue. They offered space in their apartments, rides to shopping malls and grocery stores and access to their computers to their new classmates, according to Executive Director Joel Miller. Miller estimates that there will be 20-30 Jewish students among the 300 from Tulane who will be attending Syracuse this semester. Duke University's Freeman Center for Jewish Life and University of Michigan Hillel are also helping displaced students adjust.
University of Maryland, College Park Hillel
Students contributed almost $1,000 to a new fund for hurricane relief at Maryland Hillel's opening barbecue, and they have set a new goal of raising $11,400 by Nov. 11, the date of the Shabbat 1140 program.
Stony Brook University Hillel
Stony Brook Hillel has taken the lead in organizing a campus-wide fundraising campaign to benefit hurricane survivors. Executive Director Rabbi Joe Topek convened an emergency meeting of key campus staff and student leaders last week to raise awareness of those affected by the hurricane and to strategize fundraising opportunities for student organizations, residence halls, dining halls, the health sciences center and administrative departments during the month of September. All collected funds will go to the American Red Cross.
University of Cincinnati Hillel
Jewish students at the University of Cincinnati have initiated a "Books for Band-Aids" campaign, in which they are selling old books from the Hillel library to the University of Cincinnati, Hebrew Union College and greater Cincinnati communities. The books are being sold in bags -- $5 for a small bag and $10 for a big one. A jazz quartet is also performing in front of Hillel to raise additional funds. Hillel is giving everyone who contributes a Band-Aid to wear to show their support and concern for all the people affected. Students have already raised more than $1,000 after two days, and all proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross.
North Carolina Hillel
Jewish students raised almost $8,000 by selling Mardi Gras beads at the North Carolina-Wisconsin football game on Sept. 17. Together the campus fundraising group Carolina Katrina relief, UNC students have raised at least $25,000 in the past two weeks.
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Indiana University Hillel
Indiana University Hillel partnered with the American Red Cross to sponsor a blood drive benefiting the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.
DePaul University Hillel
Student Michelle Miller brought together Hillel, the Student Government Association and University Ministry to mobilize students on her campus to raise funds selling Mardi Gras beads. Campuses everywhere, often led by an energetic JCSC fellow, are selling Mardi Gras beads and raising thousands of dollars.
Hillel at the University of Connecticut, Storrs
Hillel, along with the university's National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness chapter, Connecticut Public Interest Research Group, ROTC chapter and a sorority instituted "Swipe a Meal," where students donated the cost of their meal to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The program raised $12,000 for relief efforts.
University of Pennsylvania Hillel
Students organized an interfaith service to honor victims of Hurricane Katrina. The participants raised $750, with a donor providing matching funds. Penn students are also creating packages for evacuees sent to Philadelphia, providing much-needed items to help them adjust to a new life.
Oberlin College Hillel
Oberlin Hillel's Tzedek organization and Oberlin's Queer Jewish community are sponsoring an all-campus party for victims of Katrina who do not live in traditional families. Money from the party will go to the National Youth Action Coalition.
Cornell Hillel and University of South Florida Hillel
Both Hillels invited Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry's ice cream to speak to packed audiences on campus. Funds raised at both events are being donated to Hurricane Katrina relief.
Bucknell University Hillel
Several Bucknell Hillel students recently spent a day at Judaica artist Gary Rosenthal's workshop, where he helped them make five menorahs. Two menorahs will be offered in a raffle, and the other three will be auctioned off during Bucknell Parents Weekend. Bucknell Hillel will donate the proceeds to relief efforts, and it hopes to raise more than $500.
Georgetown University Hillel
Students on Georgetown Hillel's tzedek committee have planned a series of fundraisers, including the sale of Mardi Gras beads, a Mardi Gras Shabbat, lawn games and a bar night. The $1,054 raised will go toward hurricane relief.
In cooperation with several other student organizations, MIT Hillel is producing a benefit concert, featuring many campus musical, cultural and dance groups, to raise money for hurricane relief. Students who donate the suggested $10 for admission will be entered into a raffle to win an iPod Mini.
Brooklyn College Hillel
Together with the New York Public Interest Research Group, Seeds of Hope and numerous Greek organizations, the Brooklyn College Hillel student board organized a three-day yard sale that coincided with the college's annual welcome-back bash. The sale raised more than $750, and the student hope to find a matching donor and send $1,500 to AmeriCare.
Hillel at Columbia University and Barnard College
Columbia/Barnard Hillel has been involved in a whole host of projects, from helping to welcome students from the Gulf Coast who have arrived on campus, to organizing fundraising initiatives to help directly those communities in distress and the communities who have opened their doors to the survivors of the hurricane, and discussions and actions focused on long-term sustained change in these areas. In partnership with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Columbia/Barnard Hillel is working toward supporting Stewpot Community Services in Jackson, Miss, an organization that provides meals, groceries, clothing, shelter, child care and longer-term programs that help people move toward self-sufficiency. Students also raised nearly $6,000 for Hurricane Katrina relief recently by sponsoring "Get A Life, Save A Life," a charity date auction.