A group of students from the Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls boarded a plane to New Orleans on Nov. 2, for a life-changing experience organized by NCSY to provide relief for the people of New Orleans who were devastated by hurricanes.
The mission began as SKA girls helped demolish a house that was ruined by Hurricane Ida. Getting a structure back to normal starts with destroying the house, which can cost a homeowner thousands of dollars; by volunteering to knock it down, the girls were able to save the homeowner a lot of money and emotional stress.
After learning how to use pry bars, hammers and drills, the girls got to work ripping out walls, taking down ceilings and removing doors. Although the work may not have been easy, it was extremely rewarding, allowing the girls to help those less fortunate than them.
Afterwards, the students toured Jewish landmarks in New Orleans, beginning with the former Beth Israel Shul which had been somewhat destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, and then visited the local Jewish cemetery. This exposed them to a very different Jewish community, especially one much smaller than their own.
The students learned about the importance of irises to Louisiana’s environment. To help save the iris population, threatened by natural disasters, they pulled weeds, added dirt, watered and planed them.
The girls davened at the Beth David Synagogue on Friday night and had an uplifting kabbalas Shabbat and dinner. On Shabbat day, they went to Chabad for lunch where they connected with community members and heard about their lives in New Orleans. They spent the afternoon at the Chabad house playing games and hanging out.
At Shalosh Seudot, the rabbi’s daughter spoke about the importance of shlichus and how even though it may be difficult to live in a Jewish community as small as hers, the impact that Chabad creates is immeasurable.
On Sunday morning, the girls went to the Chabad Hebrew school where they helped Jewish children enrolled in public schools learn to read and write in Hebrew. This experience provided the girls with a greater appreciation of being able to attend a Jewish school like SKA.