Using Their Succahs to Help Others
October 24, 2006Comments (0)
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Butler students conduct a bone marrow registration drive in their succah.
For many college students this year, a succah was more than just a temporary space for celebration; it was a place to help others in need.
At Butler University, Jewish students learned of a classmate with Hodgkin’s lymphoma who had struggled to find a matching bone marrow donor. Ashkenazi Jews, they learned, were underrepresented in the national bone marrow donor database. Wanting to do something to raise awareness and to help their friend, the students teamed up with “Gift of Life” to organize a donor registration drive in their succah. During the drive they handed out information about bone marrow donation and registered 160 people for the database.
“It was tough for the students to see their friend so sick and not be able to help him,” said Rabbi Aaron Spiegel, director of Butler Hillel. “The bone marrow donor registration drive was an opportunity for them to do something for him and they just ran with it.”
And for Butler freshman Morgan Zellers, it was also an opportunity to combine two pressing campus issues.
“I knew I was interested in Hillel events and I’m pre-med,” she said. “So it was a great way to get involved.”
On campuses like the University of Virginia and Ball State University, students raised money for local charities by spending the night sleeping inside their succahs.
“We're trying to raise awareness for the holiday,” said Hilary Gordon, a junior at Ball State and vice president of Hillel. “We’re also raising money for our charity.”
Across the ocean in Israel, students from Tel Aviv University and Haifa Hillel volunteered to build and decorate a succah for women and children staying at a domestic violence shelter in Haifa.
The students spent the day talking to the women and helping the children make decorations to hang in the succah.
But for Alexandra ben Ari, a graduate student at Tel Aviv University, the visit was emotional and bittersweet.
“One little four-year-old girl described to me, with tears running down her cheeks, how she used to watch her father hit her mother knowing there was nothing she could do to stop it,” she said.
Inbar Bluzer, director of Haifa Hillel, hopes the succah activity is just the beginning of a long-term Hillel project with the women’s shelter.
“The succah is a symbol of how temporary our lives are,” said Bluzer. “Everyone in the north of Israel felt such temporariness all through the war [this summer]. Most of us were able to return to our homes after the cease-fire. The residents of the women’s shelter were not so fortunate.”