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From Jerusalem to the Ninth Ward: A Jewish Journey

by Rachel Racoosin |Nov 09, 2010|Comments
The day began with a speech by the prime minister of Israel and ended with volunteer work in a hurricane-ravaged neighborhood of New Orleans; two profound - and profoundly different -- experiences united by the common thread of Jewish commitment.

Netanyahu's speech resonated with the students who rarely have the opportunity to hear from such a high-level Israeli official. By contrast, the disruptive protests of some audience members seemed impolite and rude.

Just a few hours later, but seemingly a world apart, the 600 Jewish students attending the GA participated in various service projects across the New Orleans. From planting trees to cleaning up an amusement park, students dedicated their time to improving the lives of others.

The young people were continuing a movement that began soon after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005. In the five years following the hurricane, more than 4,000 Jewish students have devoted their school breaks to rebuilding for the people of New Orleans.

Howie Feinberg, president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, Texas, said that "tikkun olam is an action verb, it is not a passive concept." Through engaging in the act of tikkun olam, repairing the world, these students have become change-makers.

Duke University student Samantha Tropper was particularly touched by the "drive-by thank-you's" of elementary school students and others who expressed their gratitude as the students worked. (Read her blog post.)

Students left their service projects feeling inspired and energized about their contribution to the lives of the people of New Orleans.

Rachel Racoosin is a student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

(Video produced by Rachel Racoosin and Arizona student Meryl Press.)

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