Fighting Darkness with Light: How a Small Group of Students Ran a Global Day of Loving-Kindness
“It’s a cute idea, but it’s unrealistic.” That was my initial reaction when I heard about the Global Day of Loving-Kindness (GDLK) that took place last Sunday, Oct. 22. At the time, I did not know that it was entirely run by a bunch of students our age, organized in only a matter of days and had achieved national attention and worldwide recognition by thousands of people across several continents.
Spearheaded by Uriel Sussman (YC ‘25), who was quickly joined by several other enthusiastic students from YU and other universities, the initiative aimed to promote worldwide acts of chesed in the wake of the atrocities recently perpetrated by Hamas and the war that has since ensued.
So what actually went into running the Global Day of Loving-Kindness, and how did it begin?
Sussman originally pitched the idea to his friends a little over a week before, thinking there should be some type of response to the Global Day of Jihad, which had been called for Friday, Oct. 13 by former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal.
“The Day of Jihad … instilled a lot of fear in people, and the world was a worse place because of it,” said Ruben Prawer (YC ‘25), one of GDLK’s organizers. Prawer recalled President Berman’s speech at the university rally held in Lamport Auditorium on Oct. 10, where Berman had quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous statement from a speech delivered in 1957: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
The motivation to run a day solely dedicated to loving-kindness, Prawer explained, stemmed from this idea. “In response to hate and evil in the world,” said Prawer, “You have a responsibility to infuse light into the world.” In light of this, and in response to the Day of Jihad, Sussman wanted “a day focused on chesed and ahava and making the world a better place,” Prawer told The Commentator.
The goals of the day were manifold, including global recognition of the day, specific activities planned throughout the day and smaller interactions between people.
On a global scale, the group wanted their project to achieve international recognition, hoping to reach as far into the world as possible. “While there was a strong sense of optimism and ambition, especially led by Uriel,” Prawer said, “There were quite a few people who doubted how much we could pull off in such a short amount of time.” Nevertheless, students worked tirelessly the entire previous school week to successfully run GDLK.
The students created a WhatsApp chat for anyone interested in helping, which was joined by over 350 people, and the work began. Participants were encouraged to reach out to whomever they knew, with the goal of spreading awareness of the effort to as many communities as possible. Eytan Israel and Avi Balsam, undergraduate students at Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and friends of Sussman’s, as well as computer science student Amanda Poupko (SCW ‘24), designed a website, which Prawer noted was an impressive feat given their short deadline.
Once the website was up and running, business student Rivka Marcus (SSSB ‘24) was tasked with ensuring that GDLK had a strong social media presence, creating and running accounts on Instagram and Twitter, and using multiple hashtags such as #CombattingJihadWithAhavah and #FightingHateWithLove. Shai Kohn (YC ‘26) was in charge of the graphic design team, which helped create flyers in multiple languages as well as all sorts of other infographics designed to encourage kindness and love with one another.
While all this was taking place online, students also began to reach out to as many shuls, schools and other organizations as they could think of. They reached far and wide — Prawer recalled receiving messages from his friends who were sitting in the office space they received in Glueck, saying things like, “I just got off the phone with the head of Young Israel.”
Besides for the broader global recognition, a second goal of the day was to encourage people to do acts of charity they wouldn’t normally do, such as raising money for various organizations, volunteering at a local food bank, donating blood and handing out food in the streets. Throughout the day, GDLK ran all sorts of programming on campus and in Washington Heights, including packaging candy bags for students to give their friends, bringing donuts to the local police station to thank them for the recent increase in security and for everything they do and handing out food to those in need in the local Heights community.
Finally, on the most minute scale, the third goal of GDLK was to promote kind interactions with one another, encouraging people to compliment each other, hold open the door for one another, smile at strangers and to just be nicer to the people around them. These, said Prawer, are “acts of love and kindness on a smaller level” which can also have a profound effect on the broader world.
As for the long-term effects of GDLK, Prawer explained that the students hope it will make people more mindful of how they treat others going forward.
“We wanted to rally together all the people who were on the side of life, and love, and kindness,” Prawer said. “When it comes to any value that you emphasize and you have a day devoted to that value, it’s obviously not just about that day.”
“I think it'd be great if this was Israel's response to every day of Jihad or call for violence,” Sussman told The Commentator, “To show the world that what we want is to build a kinder, better world.”
Photo Caption: The Global Day of Loving-Kindness took place last Sunday, Oct. 22.
Photo Credit: Global Day of Loving-Kindness