URI Hillel members lend a helping hand in Houston


In March, four students from the University of Rhode Island Hillel traveled to Houston for an Alternative Spring Break Trip coordinated by Nechama, a Jewish disaster relief organization.

During this once-in-a-lifetime experience, Sarah Rubinrott, Emily Goldberg, Erica Ryan and Emily Leddington helped repair homes that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Each student returned to Rhode Island with memories that she’ll never forget.

Rubinrott, Class of 2019, came back with a new outlook on global warming.

“It’s an issue that affects more than just the South and states that are vulnerable to hurricanes. It is our job to care for our planet, and this trip really helped me put that into perspective,” she said.

Rubinrott hopes to go on more disaster-relief trips to help people who have suffered from destructive events such as Hurricane Harvey.

Goldberg, class of 2020, signed up for the trip without having any experience using power tools, let alone building houses. But once she arrived in Houston, she was taught everything she needed to know about safely building a house.

At first, she didn’t realize the importance of her hard work, but then the house’s owner came to take a look, and said, “Wow, it’s starting to look like a house again!”

Erica Ryan, class of 2020, was initially unsure if she wanted to make the trip: All she wanted to do during spring break was lie in her bed. But she ended up getting on the plane, and never looked back.

Ryan was surprised by how much she learned in just one week, and by how different the Jewish culture is in Houston from the culture in her hometown in New Jersey. But, she said, “When the week was over, I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we were overcome with a sense of pride and accomplishment.”

Emily Leddington, class of 2020, believes she’s become “a different person” since making the spring break trip. She said the culture of the Texans, as well as their friendliness, inspired her. She was amazed at how a community that had been through so much hardship still looked on the bright side.

“The beauty of Houston is its sense of bravery and determination. We always see on the news when destruction occurs, but then we get back to our daily lives and forget about all the damage that is left over,” said Leddington. “I learned that sometimes we don’t anticipate what will happen in the world, but through hard work, community and love, anything is possible.” 

Students’ participation in URI Hillel’s Alternative Spring Break Trip to Houston was subsidized by grants from the Ocean State Job Lot/Presidential Partnership Fund at URI and Repair the World. To read each student’s full story about her experience, visit http://www.urihillel.org/blog.

LEAH KAPLAN, URI class of 2018, is graduating with a major in public relations.


URI, Hillel, Houston