From the Director

Eitan Katz - Director of NCSY Relief MissionsI began my 20 years of service as a paratrooper in the IDF in 1984 and very quickly came to understand that Israel’s mandatory military service has, in large part, made our young country the global powerhouse it is today.  That experience, in the service of country, is of immeasurable value. Learning through service is an education unlike any other. 

Tikun Olam – Repairing the world is something I learned in the IDF; Israel has become a number one responder to natural disasters around the world.  Teen Relief Missions (TRM) has learned from this and has been responding to natural disasters for over 15 years.  We educate the teens about what it means to repair the world and what it means to be an ambassador of the Jewish people.  

And like the IDF experience, it’s impossible to overemphasize the impact that TRM has on their teen volunteers as well as on the ravaged communities they serve. I am still able to picture the tearful thank you the Minnesotan brothers gave the TRM volunteers for saving their elderly father’s life.  TRM teens had repaired the father’s furnace before an impending snowstorm, making it possible for him to stay in his home. When another one of our groups returned a year later, the brothers embraced them, welcoming back the “Jewish group from New Jersey.” 

The sense of purpose and satisfaction teens feel when giving to others in many ways makes them the true beneficiaries of these missions. I have been awed and inspired at seeing the hearts and minds of Jewish teens transformed when given the opportunity to live Jewish values. They return infused with a sense of purpose and often take on leadership roles in their own communities. Many point to the mission experience as the reason they are teaching in Jewish schools today.   

When I led the first mission to New Orleans in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, I could never have imagined that over the next fifteen years we would run over 200 missions with more than 3,000 teens to places like Kentucky, Texas, New Orleans, and Puerto Rico. Additionally, I hadn’t known we would get the opportunity to partner with stellar organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Repair the World.  

After our successes with TRM, we expanded and have now become OU Relief Missions (OURM) and run the same quality programs, now offered for people of all ages; college students, young professionals, families, and our over 60s populations. With this, we have also expanded internationally offering humanitarian aid to orphans in Romania and Rwanda, as well as India. The requests keep coming in and our population is always ready to answer the call. 

Today, with the establishment of the OURM, I am proud to carry on the tradition I was part of in the IDF. With this new venture OURM we will be able to expand the opportunity for more Jewish individuals of all ages to help more people heal after a natural disaster.   

We’re just getting started and we hope you’ll join us on this life-changing journey. 

Rabbi Ethan Katz 

Founder and Director of OU Relief Missions