Jewish Heritage Programs and Lubavitch House at the University of Pennsylvania will be sending 15 undergraduate students to the Czech Republic as part of an alternative Spring Break trip this March.

The brainchild of Wharton School sophomore Ben Levine, the subsidized trip will see the students volunteering in Prague's Jewish day school and helping out with elderly residents. Chabad-Lubavitch of Prague is coordinating the visit, which will also include a Shabbat experience with the local Jewish community.

"The student reaction is great," said Levine on Wednesday, one day after an informational meeting drew more students than available spots on the trip. "A lot of people are looking for interesting things to do during Spring Break instead of just going to the beach."

Levine said that after returning from last year's alternative Spring Break trip to Argentina, which was coordinated by the Chabad on Campus Foundation, he wanted to do another community service-oriented trip this year. Going to Eastern Europe added the benefit of seeing a major center of Jewish history.

"Prague makes a lot of sense because it offers so much in terms of history," he explained. "It's also a great way to get people involved and interested in Judaism."

According to Rabbi Manis Barash, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Prague, some 1,600 people are listed as members in the Jewish community, which once was home to such Torah luminaries as the Maharal and the Noda B'yehuda. Another 7,000 are not officially listed as members of the community, but come to services and events.

Barash said that the average age of Prague's Jews is about 55.

Lindsay Teich, a campus coordinator at Jewish Heritage Programs, noted that the community service work in Prague would be very different from the construction work and house painting that students did last year in Argentina.

"The Jewish community in Argentina is a lot more impoverished," she said. "But in Prague, there are different needs. We plan on doing a lot of education work with children and visiting nursing homes."

Rabbi Ephraim Levin, director of Lubavitch House, explained that Judaism places great value to helping another person.

"According to the Baal Shem Tov," he said, referring to the founder of Chasidism, "the idea of ahavas yisroel, or love of a fellow Jew, is to help out someone you've never seen before."