Photo Credit: Courtesy
Chabad rabbis working on war-front.

In a poignant display of solidarity and hope, approximately 1,000 individuals gathered in the street at the Chabad Ohel, eagerly awaiting the arrival of five buses carrying two hundred people who had just landed at JFK International Airport, on Monday, Nov. 13. Among the passengers, 170 were no ordinary travelers – they were the family members of hostages held in Gaza, accompanied by a team of professional trauma support staff.

Rabbi Krinsky speaking, Israeli consulate speaking to parents of hostages.

The atmosphere surrounding the Chabad Ohel was charged with compassion and emotion as the crowd awaited the arrival of the hostages’ families, bonding in shared concern. The hostages represented included infants, toddlers, teenagers, grandparents, Holocaust survivors, a woman who had just been discharged from the hospital after breast cancer surgery, and a pregnant woman who is believed to have given birth while held captive. There were serious concerns expressed that the hostages were being denied access to critical medications.


As the five buses unloaded, the hostages’ family members emerged, walking a path flanked by a crowd holding banners depicting their captive relatives. The air was filled with Jewish prayers, punctuated by the powerful chorus of “Am Yisrael Chai,” echoing the enduring strength and resilience of the Jewish people.

Family penning their requests to leave at graveside.

The family members were ushered into a secluded private indoor area where they were provided with refreshments and the opportunity to pen personal notes and pleas on the auspicious day of rosh chodesh Kislev, after which they would be escorted to a private graveside visit at the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Ohel. There, their heartfelt prayers and messages would be reverently placed upon the tzaddik’s resting place, which was already piled over with posters of the kidnapped hostages, thereby serving as a tangible expression of their deep longing for the safe return of their relatives.

At the Ohel, the supportive crowd which had gathered to express solidarity, graciously stepped aside, affording the hostages’ family members the space they needed for their personal prayers. Simona Beitner said she came in support, “Someone may rip down the posters of the kidnapped hostages and dismiss this as ‘propaganda,’ but they can’t erase or silence the family members who are standing here and crying out for the world to do something, we beg the Red Cross to visit our hostages just as they do for any other hostages.”

Leaving Israel was agonizing as the hostages’ family members said they want to be as close to the epicenter of any emerging news of their loved ones, nevertheless, they came to New York to pray and to also ensure their family members remained at the forefront of any negotiations. They said they wanted their presence to serve as a powerful message to the world, conveying the urgency of the situation and reinforcing their collective desire to see their loved ones safely returned home.

Amit and Dana Shem Tov, brother and sister of Hostage Omer Shem Tov.

Amit and Dana Shem Tov, the brother and sister of kidnapped hostage Omer Shem Tov (21) said, “We want the world to know we miss our brother and we hope he is going to be back safe as soon as possible with all the other hostages, with the least amount of casualties for both sides.” Amit continued, “We came to America because we saw this as an opportunity, and in these days, we will try anything that can help.”

The trip to the United States was organized by Rabbi Asi Spiegel and made possible by the sponsorship of the United Front, headed by Rabbi Levy Mendelson of the Chabad Youth Organization. This organization oversees four distinct divisions in Israel to address wartime needs, “military front” providing essentials and spiritual support for reserve soldiers; aiding families in southern front-line communities; providing medical assistance for wounded and traumatized Israelis; and extending compassionate care for the families of fallen and injured soldiers.


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The gathering at Chabad Ohel not only served as a deeply personal moment for the families of the hostages but also underscored the strength and unity of the broader Jewish community, transcending borders in the shared pursuit of a common goal – the safe return of their loved ones.


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