By Shani Gelles
VP of Chessed and Junior at Cleveland Heights High School
Jewish teens giving time to help families in need build their sukkahs? That sounds like something out of a dream. In Cleveland NCSY, that dream was a reality last Sunday, Monday, Tuesday when more than 25 high schoolers answered the call of families unable to build their sukkahs.
Teams of three or four went to houses in Cleveland Heights, University Heights, and Beachwood to help build more than 20 sukkahs! It was really amazing because of the real effect that this help had.
“There was no way that I would have been able to have a sukkah this year without the help of these NCSYers,” one of the families who received help said appreciatively, “And to demand nothing in return? That’s true chessed.” While there are many Jewish laws regarding using someone else’s sukkah, it is very simple to fulfill the mitzvah of sitting in a sukkah in your own (properly constructed) sukkah. NCSY helped to ensure that these families have their own sukkah to eat, sleep, and live in for the entire week of Sukkot.
Basya, who went on NCSY GIVE (Girls Israel Volunteer Experience), one of the 14 NCSY Summer Programs, was one of the teens who helped build sukkahs. “After GIVE is over, you kind of forget how good it feels to do chessed. But when you start again at home, you get that awesome feeling back plus more, because now you’re doing it on your own imitative.” One of the key components of NCSY is briding the gap between public school and private school teens.
Through weekly learning programs, clubs in local public schools, and exciting Shabbatons, NCSY gives high school students friends and inspiration that lasts a lifetime. But truly lasting friendships do not come from programs, learning, or fun. They come from something much deeper – giving of oneself to others. Through the building of sukkot, and helping community members in need, Cleveland NCSY helped families fulfill the mitzvah of Sukkot, while at the same time developing leadership skills and forming friendships to last a lifetime.