By: Yossi Zimilover  | 

YU Community Rises to Occasion Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Numerous members of the extended YU community have gone above and beyond in the midst of the chaos from the coronavirus pandemic. Students, alumni and administrators have participated in a variety of initiatives to support healthcare workers and to help all those in need. 

In March, YCSA (Yeshiva College Student Association) President Leib Wiener (YC ‘20) orchestrated the delivery of 60 boxes of food items to P.S. 132 Juan Pablo Duarte, to help support the local Washington Heights community. Wiener said he reached out to four public schools when it was rumored that they were going to be closing and asked if they could use any food donations. P.S. 132 responded in the affirmative. 

Wiener worked with the Office of Student Life, Director of Dining Services Sam Chasan and Director of Government Relations Jon Greenfield to organize the effort. Greenfield connected with State Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa and local community leader Domingo Estevez to complete the coordination. In a separate instance, Chasan, alongside the YU Food Services team, also arranged the donation of a dozen boxes of perishables to the MET Council for distribution to families in need, according to a Facebook post.

Another student-led endeavor to assist the Washington Heights community (and beyond) was initiated by the START Science chapter at YU. Self-described as the “biggest club on campus,” START offers “weekly supplemental science lessons” to 11 classes across four elementary schools in the Heights, according to Aline Halpern (SCW ‘20) and Maxwell Charlat (YC ‘20), the program heads. 22 YU students serve as classroom leaders with 320 additional volunteers who visit the classrooms at least twice per semester.

Shortly after the schools closed, START produced two resources to continue teaching their students at home. Under regular circumstances, classroom leaders volunteer in the same classroom throughout their tenure. To continue maintaining this relationship even in a distanced world, each of the classroom leaders created a personalized science experiment video for their respective fourth-grade classrooms. After that, the classroom leaders have created weekly videos that are sent to all of the students. 

START also partnered with Bundle, a child-care service that is currently offering individualized lessons in various subjects, including science and engineering, to children via video-conference. Halpern and Charlat stated that over 60 members of START signed-up to teach lessons on Bundle and fill a gap in volunteers. They noted that “START has been able [to] thrive during this difficult time because of the amazing team of classroom leaders and volunteers who care about spreading kindness and are deeply committed to the Club’s mission of providing a world-class education to all.”

A further example of undergraduate kindness was demonstrated by TAC (Torah Activities Council) Vice President of Chessed Atara Levine (SCW ‘20). Levine helped publicize an Arts & Crafts drive for hospitalized children and quarantined families organized by Chai Lifeline. Donations can be given through an Amazon wish-list or by mailing new supplies to the Chai Lifeline office at 151 W 30th St, New York, NY 10001. TAC also raised money to deliver pizza to a medical team at Mercy Medical Center. 

YU alumnus Dave Weinberg (YC ‘05) was involved in coordinating a larger-scale operation to deliver kosher food to healthcare workers. Journalist Bethany Mandel created Kosher19 and partnered with Weinberg and Dani Klein from to raise upwards of $84,000 (at the time of publication) and deliver over 10,000 kosher meals to nearly 200 hospitals around the country. 

The campaign has also simultaneously sustained struggling kosher restaurants and Weinberg said that “dozens of local kosher restaurants won’t have to close thanks to Kosher19’s quick-thinking efforts to support their businesses.” Weinberg, whose experiences at YU included serving as a graphic design for The Commentator, stated that students can join the effort by clicking ‘donate’ on our site then ‘fundraise’ to join the Yeshiva University team.” He also encouraged students to share Kosher19’s posts on social media and “give a buck or ten to the cause.”

In other measures to assist healthcare employees, YU donated 148 goggles and 400 masks to Mt. Sinai Hospital with an additional 48 goggles coming from Central, Yeshiva University High School for Girls, according to a Facebook post. The post thanked the Facilities and Food Services team, SCW Biology Department Laboratory Specialist Tatyana Kievsky, Dean of Science Management and Clinical Professor of Physics Dr. Edward Berliner and Ruth Fried, the Chairperson of the Science Department at Central, “for meeting this challenge with grace and courage.” 

Akiva Kra, Shimi Kaufman and Shneur Agronin, a group of three 11th grade students at MTA, Yeshiva University High School for Boys, organized an effort to gather and distribute messages for the elderly. They recognized that many seniors in old-age homes may be particularly lonely during this time and estimate that they’ve collected and distributed around 100 letters in the two weeks since beginning the program. They encourage anyone to send “messages, pictures or videos” to and noted that “if someone sends one letter, it can make over 500 people’s day.” 

YU’s graduate schools have also launched various programs during the pandemic that utilized their respective skills and abilities. Speech-Language Pathology students of the Katz School of Health and Science have been staffing a clinic offering free telehealth speech therapy to “Yeshiva University faculty, students, staff and all persons in need residing in New York.” The Wurzweiler School of Social Work hosted numerous “Care Café” events via Facebook Live, including yoga sessions and parenting workshops, “to help those in need manage direct and indirect responses to trauma during this global pandemic,” according to YU News. They also reported that Cardozo School of Law students and alumni have engaged in pro-bono work to support small businesses impacted by coronavirus. 

The examples listed above are merely a glimpse into all the acts of kindness that have been (and are still being) performed by those in the YU community. This piece is a far cry from a comprehensive overview of all the actions undertaken, and no negative inferences should be reached from the exclusion of any initiatives.

Photo Caption: Members of the YU community have risen to the occasion to provide help to those in need in the COVID-19 crisis. 
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University