YU Students Are Making a Difference

By: Aaron Shaykevich  |  October 10, 2023

By Aaron Shaykevich, Editor-in-Chief, on behalf of the YU Observer

As Israel prepares to fight a war unprecedented since the Yom Kippur War, the realization that Jewish lives are at risk is horrifying. Yeshiva University’s president, Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, shared with the YU community that he had to send his own son to war. And while some may feel helpless, YU students have already begun making a difference. 

For example, Leora Kronenberg (SCW ’24) spent her time after the Jewish holidays compiling a Google document with resources for how to help “on the ground” or “from afar,” along with many other resources such as donation links, tehillim websites and chats, and emergency resources. This document is currently over 10 pages long, and is being circulated in Jewish WhatsApp groups, and is constantly being updated with new resources. When asked how others can get involved, her advice was to “do anything, from giving blood, to donating, to saying a perek of tehillim, do whatever you are able to.” She expounds that you should not “think that anything you do [is less] in comparison to others and thus not worth doing, because the joint impact we have when we put our seemingly small actions together is vast and unfathomable.” Leora shared: “I feel a responsibility to do what I can, and what is useful.” Leora is among many Jews in the diaspora to rally support and send aid for the state of Israel. 

Some YU students are currently in Israel on the ground, and working there to make a difference. Both Zack Muller (YC ‘24) and Simcha Bendel (YC ’24) are among those supporting Israel in the best ways they can. Zack shared with us that while he is currently in Israel and “feels helpless,” he does his part by, “pack[ing] up food and goodies for the soldiers.” Although he is doing everything in his power, he feels that the resilience of his “brother and other soldiers [who] are risking their lives for [The Jews in Israel],” are the heroes of this war. Similarly, Simcha recounts his experience when he initially tried to volunteer at hospitals in Israel. When the hospitals did not take volunteers, he found other ways to help. He explained how he, “went to [a] shul where [he] helped with shopping, organizing supplies, and organizing people into volunteer WhatsApp groups.” Simcha described a particular moment, saying that, “on one of my shopping trips today, I found myself in line behind an older woman whose five sons and son-in-law were called to serve. She was stocking up on food to send to them and was struggling with all of her items. I helped her load all the stuff onto the conveyor belt to pay and then brought all her purchases to her car and helped load it. So while I was doing a mitzvah, I was also doing another mitzvah. It’s really a mixed bag of emotions since I am feeling positive about being able to help, and afraid and helpless about not being able to do more.” His advice for those in the U.S. is to “learn Torah, donate, and daven.” Although it may be disheartening, for those who wish to be in Israel supporting our people and homeland, like Zach and Simcha, there are still boundless ways in which we can help our nation. 

Additionally, Gabriella Kahen (SCW ‘27), who works alongside Gift of Giving Intl, relates her memorable experiences in their aid for Israel. In Gabriella’s own words, the organization, “was started by Veronique Hadjibay who cooks and distributes homemade meals to 260 needy people every week.” Before the war, Gabriella would volunteer by, “helping package and distribute meals.” For Gabriella this work is meaningful because while she, “do[esn’t] need to think twice about the price of food when grocery shopping… there are others who aren’t [that] fortunate. Now, Gabriella helps Veronique and Gift of Giving Intl by raising money to buy food and basic necessities for soldiers. 

All of these students have reacted to the news with immediate support for Israel. Within 24 hours, each of these students have stepped up as leaders and have taken the time to help support Jews in need. If this is what can happen in just a couple of days, then this is just the beginning of Jewish student leadership in supporting Israel against Hamas.