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LA children get help from Hillel

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, February 1, 2010

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08

Students involved in UConn Hillel worked to improve the lives of impoverished children in Los Angeles over winter break as part of a community service event that brought together Hillel students from across the country.

Six students from UConn Hillel, an organization that connects Jewish college students, and students representing Hillel programs at other universities teamed up with City Year, a nonreligious group dedicated to bettering the lives of children and adolescents throughout the nation, to fix up a recreational after-school student facility.

"The greatest accomplishment … was being able to create wooden cubbies for every member of the club," said Ally Kruzansky, a 4th-semester communications disorders major. "I had never hammered a nail or created something from five planks of wood, it was a very fulfilling experience."

Hillel and City Year worked through the Boys and Girls Club in Santa Monica.

The students completed more than 1,400 hours of community service by painting walls, designing murals, building a skateboarding ramp and amphitheatre, landscaping and mentoring and entertaining children.

"When the skate park was finished … the kids were jumping and screaming and could not wait to skate," Kruzansky said.

"It was amazing to watch the process unfold in front of our eyes," said Jamie Melnick, an 8th-semester human development and family studies major, about the transformation that had occurred at the recreation center.

The students from Hillel incorporated religion into the trip with an educational workshop called "Bringing it Back to Campus."

On Friday night Shabbat, the group held services illuminating an ideology representative of their experiences.

Focusing on the Hebrew phrase meaning "repairing the world," the students reflected on what they contributed by working for the welfare of the children.

"It's not about praying all day; it's about going out and helping people," said Scott Meshnick a 6th-semester individualized major and the Tzedek (social justice) chair of UConn Hillel, in a press release. "You can do all the rituals and recite all the prayers you want, but they don't mean anything unless you go out and help the world."

Members of Hillel that came from Hofstra University, University of Delaware, Kent College, College of Staten Island, Broward College and Palm Beach State College to work together in Los Angeles.

"It's a nice feeling to be around people your age and be making a difference in another community," Kruzansky said.

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