Rena Meisler is willing to help.
Rather than doing an internship for her Career Internship Program, Montclair High School senior Rena Meisler decided to take part in a volunteer trip organized by her Hebrew School at Temple Ner Tamid, located in Bloomfield, N.J.
“For my senior option, I went with a group of 18 other students to New Orleans, where we volunteered with a few different organizations that are responsible for helping New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina,” explained Meisler. We also met with hurricane survivors and heard their stories.”
This New Orleans trip was started in the spring right after Hurricane Katrina happened and has continued every year since than.
“I was able to participate in the trip because it is lead by our Hebrew school director and is open to the graduating seniors who have continued with Hebrew school through twelfth grade,” explained Meisler.
Rena Meisler and most of her classmates have been going to Hebrew school since they were in pre-school. The trip is a perfect way to culminate their Hebrew school education. As they got older, their Hebrew school classes focused more on social action and their responsibility to help others.
“Iris Schwartz, our Hebrew school director, organized and led the trip,” explained Meisler. “Alyssa Blackman, Lillian Kravitz, Arielle Foulks, Faith Hill, Tali Westreich, Hannah Snyder, Hannah Sands, Jason Vest, Amelia Dunnel, Leo Poggie, Liam McCusker, Sammy Mellman, Jon Segal, Tucker Wentz, Jared Zimmerman and Eric Silverstein were the other participants.”
To prepare for the trip, Rena Meisler and her peers spent the week prior discussing Hurricane Katrina and how it affected New Orleans. The group additionally outlined their goals and expectations for the trip. Also, discussions about why the trip was necessary and why it was good to help others were also held.
“We also watched When the Levees Broke and I’m Carolyn Parker. Both videos were eye-opening and essential to adding to the experience once we were actually in New Orleans,” added Meisler.
Once the group got to New Orleans, they were very busy. “In New Orleans, we volunteered with Habitat For Humanity for four days. While working with Habitat we worked on three different sites,” said Meisler.
The first site was a project called “Brush with Kindness.” They helped an elderly woman who could not afford to hire a contractor to do exterior repairs, such a as replacing siding, landscaping, painting and constructing a porch.
“The second and third sites were brand new houses that needed finishing touches,” said Meisler. “In these houses we painted, caulked, grouted, installed molding, built a porch and installed soffit.”
On their days off from Habitat, they volunteered at ARNO.
“ARNO is a volunteer animal shelter that was overwhelmed with abandoned dogs after Katrina and is still recovering,” said Meisler. “We also visited ‘Our School at Blair Grocery’ in the lower ninth ward to learn about a different type of recovery where Nat Turner is working to help teens in the neighborhood turn their lives into something good.”
Meisler thoroughly enjoyed her New Orleans experience. “This trip really was an incredible experience,” said Meisler. “I learned a lot about the people and the culture of New Orleans.”
Rena Meisler’s favorite part of the trip revolved around the time she spent with Katrina survivors.
“Each person had such a unique and tragic story,” explained Meisler. “But they each had so much faith, hope and gratitude. It was just amazing to see how hard everyone has worked to keep New Orleans going.”
Choosing the trip to New Orleans over a regular internship was a choice Meisler is happy she made.
“It was a truly unique experience and gave me the ability to help a community that still needs so much assistance,” shared Meisler. “Even eight years after the storm there are so many people living in dangerous conditions that need our help.”
Come fall, Meisler will be attending the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt.