The Highbridge Park Cleanup Event: YU’s Environmentally-Friendly Chesed Initiative

By: Ruchama Benhamou  |  April 5, 2022

By Ruchama Benhamou, Features Editor 

Yeshiva University students gathered to give back to the community on Friday, March 25, 2022 through a joint campus event to clean up Highbridge Park. This event was created and promoted by the Assistant Director of the Office of Student Life (on the Wilf Campus), Rabbi Herschel Hartz, with the help of the Wurzweiler Care Cafe, as well as its partnership with the Northern Manhattan Division of NYC Parks. With the hopes of inspiring a chain of long lasting environmental care and activism, the Highland Park Cleanup is the second event of its kind. 

In the first park cleanup event held in September 2021, about fifteen students gathered together to clean and clear away the weeds and foliage that were damaging the park. Due to staff shortages within the park, Yeshiva University teamed up with the Parks Department to facilitate park cleanup events with the students from both the Beren and Wilf campuses. 

The most recent event consisted of about twenty students who cleaned, repaired, and painted the park’s fences. Among the students were some impactful members of the Washington Heights district, such as  councilwoman Carmen De La Rosa as well as assemblyman Manny De Los Santos. As pivotal pillars of the community in Washington Heights, both political figures, with their support, have facilitated this environmental chesed event. 

Students expressed their passion for helping out members of their community. One participant, Elazar Abrahams (YC ‘22), shared that “while events like American Dream takeovers and sports tickets are great, these chesed initiatives are some of the most important things that a student council can do. I’ve found projects like our Bronx Fire response, relief mission to Vienna, and these park cleanups to be the most rewarding part of the job.”

It is evident that this park cleanup event has encompassed a critical aspect and focus of the Yeshiva University community: the fourth Torah value of chesed or compassion. As a Jewish institution, YU endeavors to effectuate the essential principles of what it means to be a Jew in the modern world. A focal point of acting and representing ourselves both as Jews and scholars is active participation utilizing these values, especially the one of chesed. Menachom Aharon Wallach (Makor ‘22) commented on this ideal and on the importance of such an event, saying, “[I]t was such a wonderful opportunity to help cleanup the park and participate in a meaningful experience with the YU community.”

Make sure to stay tuned for the next upcoming Park Cleanup Event for a chance for true chesed and environmental care and activism!

Photo Credit: Herschel Hartz