How it All Began
In early September, as Americans were beginning to understand the magnitude of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, the teenage leadership of Northeast Young Judaea gathered at Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake in Verbank, NY for their annual leadership training seminar. This group of 30 high school aged students, hailing from 10 states on the Northeast, started the weekend by packing up 50 boxes of donated relief supplies. While packing up the supplies they realized that their duty to help Hurricane victims was not yet over. With the atrocity of mass devastation in the Gulf Coast in their hearts, these teenagers decided to take action.
These Young Judaeans coined and created the movement’s relief effort, Caravan 4 Katrina. This project intended to generate donations from communities in the Northeast through the fall, and reach Hurricane evacuees at a time after the immediate media buzz had dispersed. The Caravan would mobilize the movement to collect toys, books, games, and food for Thanksgiving, and gather these donations in a series of communities en route to the distressed region. When the cameras had gone and the country’s attention may have shifted, Young Judaea would embrace the Jewish value of tzedakkah and use this Caravan as a tool to express commitment to social action (tikkun olam) and awareness.
The Southeast Route- Friday, November 18
It is almost hard to believe that Caravan4Katrina has finally begun!! Donations have already been picked up in the following locations Miami, NMB, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Vero Beach, Orlando, Savannah, Durham, Atlanta, Greensboro, Richmond, Chevy Chase, Mobile, and Montgomery.
The Northeast Route- Saturday, November 19
Tonight marked the excitement filled kick-off of the Northeast Caravan 4 Katrina in both River Edge, NJ and Boston, MA. Breaking a record for the number of Jewish teens taking part in community service projects, over 125 teenagers in River Edge shared their strength as they packed and loaded 50 full boxes of food, toys, and books onto a truck bound for Mississippi! Meanwhile, nearly 100 New England Judaeans danced in the streets of Boston with each packed box.
Each site was honored to host special guests; Boston featured speaker Yossi Abramowitz, CEO of JFL media.com/Jewish Family & Life, Co- Publisher of JVIBE, Publisher of socialaction.com, and former Judaean. River Edge featured Michael Wildes, Mayor of Englewood, NJ. Both events concluded with the Tfillat Haderech, or traveler’s prayer. These two events marked the first of 8 stops on the Northeast Caravan4Katrina journey.
The Northeast Route- Sunday, November 20
It is Sunday evening and the Caravan4Katrina has nearly finished it’s Northeast route! The Caravan has picked up boxes in Boston, West Hartford, Peekskill, New City, River Edge, Whippany, East Brunswick, and Philadelphia.
At each location there was an overwhelming amount of supporters who aided the packing process! It is estimated that there are over 300 boxes in total, filled with much needed relief supplies! It is only a few hours until the Hurricane evacuees receive these relief supplies!
The Philadelphia stop was the culmination of the pick ups, as the two trucks finally came together. Dozens of youth and community members stuck out the cold in the parking lot of Genaurdi’s to pack the final boxes before departure.
As an added bonus, Congressman Jim Gerlach, from the 6th District of Pennsylvania, joined the effort and made inspiring remarks to the participants.
After the Philadelphia event, the Northeast Young Judaea staff hit the road to meet up with the Southeast Young Judaea staff in Jackson, Mississippi, where the relief supplies will be distributed!
Thus far, it is been an extremely successful journey. We want to thank all those supporters who made the Caravan4Katrina events such and rousing success!
The Southeast Route- Sunday, November 20
It is Sunday evening and the Caravan4Katrina has almost finished its route. The Caravan has picked up boxes in Miami, NMB, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Vero Beach, Orlando, Savannah, Durham, Atlanta, Greensboro, Richmond, Chevy Chase, Mobile, and Montgomery.
We are on our way to Jackson, MS! Both of the trucks from the Southeast are headed down, one from DC and the other from Mobile. The Northeast trucks are currently departing Philadelphia and will join up with the DC truck to drive together straight through the night to Jackson, MS. The other Southeast Truck will arrive to Jackon tonight and join the Caravan tomorrow afternoon!
The North & Southeast Routes Meet- Monday, November 21
Tonight, the Northeast and Southeast Merchavim staff saw the goal of Caravan 4 Katrina realized. After 36 hours of driving and traveling a total of 6000 miles between the two merchavim, we finally reached the YMCA of Jackson, MS. As the trucks pulled in, over 200 Hurricane Katrina evacuees greeted us with applause, smiling faces, and open arms.
We sang songs, we played games, and we worked on Thanksgiving art projects with the children. At the same time, the food from the four trucks was unloaded for distribution amongst the families. Each family unit left the building carrying a large bundle of food for their Thanksgiving table. Following the event at the YMCA, the Young Judaea staff members continued the caravan to a Hurricane Katrina relief center. As messengers for the Movement, the team unloaded each truck to find that together, the Young Judaea communities had gathered 800 boxes of food, toys, games, and books.