I started volunteering for the American Red Cross in high school; by the time I was an undergraduate, I was a disaster relief volunteer and spent the entire summer after my freshman year helping disaster victims in California as well as Louisiana. I love to give back and to provide help to those who need it. I continued my volunteering during school breaks, and a few years after graduation landed a full-time job as a disaster manager for the Red Cross in Northern California. I then moved to Southern California for a new Red Cross job. While at the Red Cross, I discovered a new love and appreciation for the Jewish tradition. I ended up leaving the Red Cross to attend seminary at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies.
With my background and interest in disaster relief and my studies toward becoming a rabbi, I wanted to connect the two. I discovered NECHAMA online while looking into whether there were any Jewish disaster relief organizations such as the Southern Baptists etc. and I found NECHAMA. I reached out and offered to help and became the first rabbinic intern, writing blog entries connecting Jewish holidays to disaster relief.
Once I was ordained and started working as a Hillel director and rabbi in Texas, I was approached to join the board of NECHAMA in 2016 and couldn’t have been happier. I served a term as President in 2017 and remained a board member in my final year as Immediate Past President.
In the spring of 2019, I had the opportunity to work with NECHAMA in the field. I went to Puerto Rico to experience the important work of NECHAMA for the first time. I was there months after the hurricane and saw all the devastation to the community. To me, in my experience as a disaster worker, months after the hurricane in Puerto Rico looked like a week or two after a disaster on the mainland. Power lines were still down, road signs had not yet been replaced or repaired, and I experienced the longest power outage of my life.
While there, I helped repair leaky roofs for Puerto Ricans hard hit by Hurricane Maria. It was an incredibly moving experience to see the impact NECHAMA has on the lives of individuals and families. The connection I built with local families and the community struck by Maria was profound, and will continue to impact me throughout my life. I am grateful to NECHAMA for the impact the organization has had on my life, on the Jewish community, and on the disaster-affected communities we have served. Thank you, NECHAMA!