(New York Jewish Week) — Yeshiva University’s campuses have been somber since the devastating Hamas attack on Israel earlier this month, and Jewish communities worldwide were left anxious after terror groups declared days of protests opposing Israel.
A group of YU students decided to offer a riposte to the perceived threats, as well as an opportunity to unite the Jewish community, by declaring a “Global Day of Loving-Kindness” on Sunday. The team of undergraduates hopes to inspire 1 million acts of kindness around the globe, urging participants to share their good deeds online to spread the Jewish concept of “chesed,” or benevolence.
“We saw that Hamas and now Hezbollah have been having these ‘Days of Rage,’ so we looked at that and said, ‘That’s not how we operate,’” said YU student Abe Schoen, one of the project’s organizers. “The supporters of Israel, Jews, we spread loving-kindness in the world.”
Hamas and Hezbollah have both called for mass worldwide protests against Israel, including a planned “day of rage” on Friday, nearly two weeks since the Hamas attack on Israel that killed 1,400 and injured thousands more. Demonstrations planned for last Friday, Oct. 13, sparked fear in Jewish communities, but did not result in any major security incidents in the U.S.
The student-led team of mostly YU students came up with the idea for the loving-kindness project about a week ago, and began enlisting support through their personal connections. Schools, summer camps and Jewish organizations backed the initiative, including Hillel International, Orthodox Union and UJA-Federation of New York. Around 80 institutions in nine countries, and hundreds of student volunteers, have signed onto the project, organizers said.
New York Rep. Ritchie Torres, a staunch supporter of Israel, shared the project on X, but almost all other backers have been in the Jewish world so far.
Another group, the Jewish Service Alliance, is also holding a “National Day of Jewish Service” on Sunday focused on providing food to the needy. Organizers said around 5,000 people will join the events through dozens of organizations, and that they had decided to go forward with the previously scheduled project as an opportunity for people to come together. The YU group said the two initiatives were unrelated.
Schoen said some YU students plan to give treats such as donuts or pizza to the police and security guards on campus to thank them for keeping the students safe. Other students are packing gift bags of candy to give to friends to “brighten their day,” he said. A campus club that packs food for the needy in Upper Manhattan, where the Modern Orthodox flagship is located, has partnered with the project.
Other suggestions from organizers include smiling at strangers, visiting a hospital, tutoring a peer or donating blood. Both individuals and organized groups are expected to partake in the initiative.
Participants were encouraged to share their good deeds on social media using the project’s hashtags to spread loving-kindness and counter hatred online.
“Ultimately the goal is to put more ‘chesed’ out in the world and showcase that to the world,” Schoen said.