By Gabriella Gomperts, Staff Writer
The Sacks-Herenstein Center for Values and Leadership announced in a flier sent to students via email on November 29, 2023, that a trip to volunteer in Israel will take place over winter break.
According to the announcement, student volunteers will visit with IDF soldiers as well as with the families of hostages and those who were killed, and students will volunteer wherever necessary. The students participating in this trip will be chosen based on how they have demonstrated leadership on campus in response to the war, both spiritually and politically.
The trip will take place in the middle of winter break, from January 7 to 14. The trip is highly subsidized but will cost each student $1200, which covers flights and land costs. 35 students and four faculty members, including Aliza Abrams Konig, Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman, Rabbi Azi Fine and Dr. Erica Brown are set to travel with the cohort. These faculty members are also working closely with the YU Israel Office to ensure the success of this program.
Dr. Erica Brown, the founding director of the Sacks-Herenstein Center for Values and Leadership, emphasized the importance of standing in solidarity with Israel during this time. “Our primary goal is solidarity. We want our extended family in Israel to know that when they are in pain, we show up. That’s what families do,” she said.
Due to the changing nature of the war, the itinerary might shift, but according to Dr. Brown, students are set to take on numerous volunteer efforts in many locations throughout Israel. They will be working in a chamal (a volunteer situation room), harvesting in fields, grilling meals for IDF soldiers, giving blood in the Magen David Adom Blood Center, and visiting affected kibbutzim and yishuvim in Southern Israel.
The itinerary also includes making a carnival for displaced children who currently live in hotels and are learning in temporary schools. These children’s daily lives have been disrupted for almost 70 days. Students also plan to visit a hospital and create a program for wives of reservists who have been parenting alone during the war.
Participants on this trip are also going to daven (pray) and learn every day, with the goal being to come together and create a community within the group. This way, when the students eventually return to school, they will be able to engage with the war effort even further.
As Dr. Brown stated, “We selected leaders on campus who have been engaged in religious and political activism since the start of the war and expect them to contribute to the war effort in Israel through their volunteerism and intensify their commitment to Israel upon our return.”
Eden Lippe (SCW ’25) is grateful to have been selected to go on the trip and share her experiences with others. “I’m so grateful for this opportunity to go and make a direct impact. I think that it’s really easy when you’re far away to feel like you’re not making a difference, but I’m grateful that I get to go and make a physical difference. I’m also grateful that I get to share my experience when I come back here and show the reality of what’s going on and give people here an opportunity and ability to connect with it.”