More than 2,000 first responders in the New York tristate area enjoyed a well-deserved breakfast and outpouring of support from Jewish college students and young professionals recently to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The initiative, which honored first responders in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia, was organized by the Orthodox Union’s Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC).

The OU-JLIC community at NYU has run similar programs for the past five years. This year, six other campuses, including Columbia University, Princeton University, Rutgers University, Queens College, Cornell University and University of Pennsylvania, also joined the initiative.

More than 250 donors across all seven campuses contributed to the cause, and about 100 volunteers distributed the breakfasts.

Since 9/11 fell out on Shabbat this year, students held the official event on Friday, September 10. Students and young professionals from the campuses donated $9.11 through Venmo, and the money went toward bagels, coffee and doughnuts. Volunteers, who came from the same group, then distributed to local firefighters, police officers and homeless shelters in the local areas.

“This program helps to foster a stronger understanding within our participants about the impact they can have on our local communities even outside of the walls of the classrooms and the borders of their campuses,” said Rabbi Joe Wolfson, co-director of OU-JLIC at NYU and the program’s national chesed coordinator.” It trains them to look beyond their own immediate environment to see how they can help others and gives them a sense of agency that they don’t have to be passive but can actively contribute to society.”

Surplus funds were donated to Tuesday’s Children, a non-profit organization that provides support to families who have lost a loved one to mass violence, terrorism or military service since 9/11.

“Two of the most central tenets of our faith are sanctifying God’s name and expressing thanks. We are extremely proud of our OU-JLIC students and alumni for launching this program and continuing to expand it year after year,” said Orthodox Union President Moishe Bane.

OU-JLIC’s mission is to strengthen and transform Jewish life for Jewish day school graduates on secular college campuses. The program places Orthodox rabbinic couples on campuses to help Orthodox Jewish students navigate the secular environment while remaining dedicated to their religious practices. Currently 25 colleges and universities have OU-JLIC programming.

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