It was six o’clock in the morning at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport. It was a sight to see. Sixteen of us were returning from the first ever NY/NJ NCSY Father/Son Chessed Mission. We were at the end of a tiring mission, which included father/son bonding while helping out the Cambodian boat people who were hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. We spent two long days installing dry wall and making a significant difference not in one, but three homes; three families that now are much closer to having a home – a roof over their heads. These families are currently living in sheds and green houses until their homes are habitable. We had thought that our mission was over, but our mission had only just begun.
As we started davening in the airport, 23 public school teenagers from Houston NCSY were on their way to NCSY’s Yarchei Kallah program in New Jersey. This is the start of a journey of a lifetime for many. Yarchei Kallah is a five-day program where public school teens across North America engage in Torah study with some of the top educators and learn about their Jewish roots. These teens showed up at their gate and saw a minyan. They were amazed to see that a group of Jews were praying publicly, in an airport; they were overjoyed and decided to join in. Some of them had even put on tefilin and at that moment we understood that perhaps HaKadosh Baruch Hu planned for us to have this first ever father/son chessed mission for this very encounter, to have us meet these 23 students. This was meant to be their start of Yarchei Kallah and our mission was to help create this Kiddush Hashem.
One of the biggest lessons given over on the Fred and Rose Distenfeld Z”L NJ NCSY Chessed Missions is how to be a Kiddush Hashem. It’s true that when we see Jewish communities struck by financial trouble or recovering from a hurricane that we feel those are our brethren and we want to give back. It is our duty to be Kiddush Hashem to Jews, but it is also our duty to be a Kiddush Hashem, to be an ohr lagoyim for others as well. We work to repair the world, not only repair homes, but to repair our connection with people, non-Jews and Jews alike, religious and secular. Davening with those NCSYers, being that Kiddush Hashem, is one of the many reasons why we continue to launch more chessed missions. I could not have seen a more powerful way to finish off our mission.
For more information on NJ NCSY Chessed Missions, please visit https://newjersey.ncsy.org/lcm.
By Rabbi Ethan Katz