“For students and our young people, this shouldn’t be ‘just another day off’,” said Zur. “This is a day to reflect upon the lessons and the legacy of Dr. King by performing community service projects. We wanted to send a message to our young people that helping others is something that all faiths and all communities should be doing, and that we are stronger when we do these things together. ”
The students worked on a number of projects, such as creating hygiene kits for the homeless, activity bags for patients at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, cat toys for the Bergen County animal shelter, letters for active duty soldiers, blankets for seniors at the nursing home at New Bridge Medical Center, and created glass murals that will adorn benches set to be donated to Spring House for Women and the Glen Rock Arboretum. The students also participated in a “conversation station” where they exchanged stories about their heritage, holidays, hobbies, and learned about not only their differing traditions, but their shared values.
Zur started the event in 2017 as a response to increasingly divisive rhetoric in the nation.
“This is a time when we should be teaching our children that our diversity is our strength and that we should be moving past tolerance towards understanding each other,” continued Zur. “That is what I hope these young people were able to take away from this day, that despite our different beliefs and traditions, that we are all Americans and it’s up to all of us to not only build bridges with each other, but to reach out a helping hand to help improve the lives of others, together, as a community. Dr. King said that ‘love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend’ and that ‘we may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now,’ and I hope that’s the message that these students were able to walk away with today.”
Zur indicated her favorite part of the day was when the students, some of whom were initially reluctant to join groups with strangers, exchanged contact information with their newfound friends by the end of the day. “That’s what this day is all about,” said Zur. “By fostering understanding and building friendships, we can only strengthen our community.”
Donations for the event were received from Inserra Supermarkets, Learning Express of Ridgewood, Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, Market Basket, and Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.