More than 2,000 first responders in the New York tri state area enjoyed a well-deserved breakfast and outpouring of support from Jewish college students and young professionals to commemorate the 21st 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 has run similar programs for the past six years. This year, many other OU-JLIC campuses, including Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Rutgers University, Queens College, Brandeis University, University of Pennsylvania,  and Binghamton University also joined the initiative. This year, young professionals from Abraham’s House and Upper West Side Young Professionals and Upper East Side Young Professionals and Yeshiva University students.

Over 170 volunteers delivered breakfasts to 32 fire stations, police stations and homeless shelters. 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. More than $2,000 was donated by students, alumni, young professionals and community members.

“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 TLV 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.

For the first time this year a concerted effort was made to receive sponsorships and partnerships for the breakfasts. Sponsorships and partnerships included Starbucks and Krispy Kreme in Binghamton, supermarkets near Brandeis University, Saba’s Pizza on UWS (to name just a few) all donating substantial amounts of food and drink. This meant that more donations were able to go to Tuesday’s Children as well as being able to involve these companies as partners.

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 26 colleges and universities have OU-JLIC programming.