Photo Credit: Shai Graucher
Shai Graucher with Prime Minister Netanyahu in January.

An orphan of the October 7th pogrom wakes up early one morning, filled with excitement. Destination? An international flight to see his favorite player, Lionel Messi, in action: a dream come true. But first? The VIP section of Ben Gurion Airport, more exclusive and extravagant than even its fanciest lounge.

An injured soldier, his leg amputated, sits in a foyer, told there will be a surprise gift. He figures maybe a laptop, a hi-tech motorized wheelchair, or keys to a car. Unbeknownst to him, every detail of this moment has been planned for weeks. The scene is set. Suddenly, romantic music comes on. Moments later, his girlfriend walks in, drops to one knee, and proposes with a diamond ring that had been personally delivered from America. With a stunned smile on his face, they embrace.


A motorcade of police and security vehicles rolls down the street. Out steps Mike Pompeo, former Secretary of State, on his way to pay a shiva call to the family of a soldier killed in early February.

Shai Graucher with the brother and father of hostage Agam Berger. Graucher’s organization made an elaborate bar mitzvah for the brother at the Kotel.

The common presence in all these stories is Shai Graucher, an indefatigable chesed machine who, in the wake of October 7, founded Standing Together, an organization that has provided support at a level surpassed perhaps only by the government.

Bringing washing machines on generators to the Gaza border so soldiers could have clean clothes for the first time in a month.

Arranging tens of thousands of hot meals for soldiers.

Sponsoring and dedicating numerous Sifrei Torah in memory of October 7th victims.

Opening and operating rejuvenation centers with spas and jacuzzis for soldiers on leave from Gaza.

Distributing hundreds of iPads to injured soldiers and victims of the Simchat Torah pogrom.

Full funding of a kollel after the dean’s daughter was injured in a terrorist attack.

Funding trips abroad for young orphans to a destination of their choice.

Personal visiting hundreds of widows, orphans, and injured soldiers, and asking them to wish for anything they like, then making it happen.

Shai Graucher on a mobile laundry truck his organization set up for IDF soldiers.

And this barely even covers half of Shai Graucher’s unending initiatives. A new story could be written every week! To get a small glimpse into his life, I sat with him one morning in his office. It’s a small add-on to his apartment, filled with sefarim, plaques, and framed photos of him with gedolim. Most prominent among them is Rav Chaim Kanievsky, for whom Graucher was a right-hand man and the official translator of his sefarim.

Videos circulate of Graucher with Bibi Netanyahu and the philanthropic Schottenstein family, but those relationships aren’t new; they stem from a longstanding connection with his father, the recently deceased singer Dedi Graucher, z”l. Shai talks about how difficult Sukkos was for him this year. Usually, he’s the life of the party, up to date on all the latest music. As a mourner, this year he just stayed in his sukkah basically the entire chag. But on October 7, he started honoring his father’s memory – orphaned himself as a young teen, Dedi Graucher went on to dedicate his life to helping orphans.

Standing Together started because Graucher is the personal chazzan for the Schottenstein family on holidays, and they were together on Simchat Torah. After the chag, when the horrors became known, they said, “Shai, just go do whatever you have to do. Shiva homes, supporting orphans, injured soldiers – whatever it is, we’ll support it.”

Working non-stop running Standing Together, Graucher snatches barely a couple of hours of sleep per 24 hours. “I don’t sleep… Sometimes here, sometimes there. On Shabbos, I sleep. It’s never-ending; my phone is blasting. Every family is a story that deserves to be taken care of.”

These efforts have not come without criticism, as one senior rosh yeshiva in Israel’s chareidi community denounced Graucher by name, calling him a “mazzik gamur” (wholly destructive force). But Graucher’s heroic efforts are widely hailed on the chareidi street, and he prefers to focus on the positive, saying 99% of the feedback is supportive, including from rabbis. “The gadol hador Rav Meir Tzvi Bergman (son-in-law of Rav Shach) told me, ‘Don’t stop, don’t stop. [Helping] widows, orphans, sanctifying G-d’s name – it’s a great merit,’” Graucher shares.

Shai Graucher, center, with IDF soldiers.

For all the physical gifts and services Graucher has provided, perhaps his most enduring legacy in this war are the bridges he builds. The theme he keeps coming back to is achdut and kiruv levavot, unity and soul connection. He is quick to clarify that “kiruv means bringing people closer together. We’re not asking them to wear tefillin or light Shabbos candles. We do it in a different way.” The different way is one filled with genuine respect for the secular people he interacts with, giving to them open-heartedly with zero expectations of something in return. “I’m happy that Hashem opened my eyes to see other people, be their brothers and sisters, and show love and respect. Not just saying it, but thinking it, feeling it.”

“They deserve all the respect,” he says of the soldiers in Gaza. “I visited Khan Younis for three hours, and my hands were shaking; I don’t know how they do it. I asked the soldiers for berachos.”

But actions that come from the heart penetrate the heart, and bridges are built. “They see chareidi people coming to help and secular mothers are telling me, ‘Before October 7, I would’ve spit in your face. Now? I only want to give you a hug!’ They want to give something back,” Graucher explains.

“I believe hearts feel hearts. Every day I get messages from [released] hostages, soldiers, mothers. We became so close,” he continues. “It’s not just about kiddush Hashem, chesed, or tzedakah; those are important, but just being together, to bring love to one another in Klal Yisrael – this is my most important mission in life.”

Make no mistake, Graucher is not a retiree or young bachelor; he is a father of four young kids. So one could be forgiven for assuming his wife is a stay-at-home mom, as was reported in a story about him a few years ago. But one would be wrong. Unlike most people, I met his wife, Tobi, before I ever heard of him, when we were in graduate school together. Now, she is simultaneously pursuing a Ph.D. in autism research at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and working as an educational psychologist for the Jerusalem municipality. Interpersonally, she embodies the self-same qualities as Shai, shattering stereotypes and forging relationships with people from across the religious spectrum.

Today, the debate on chareidi participation in the army is heating up quickly in Israel, and for good reason, as non-chareidi communities continue to bear the burden of Israel’s security in unfathomably difficult and painful ways. But one thing I am confident about: If there were more Shai Grauchers to go around, the debate would be a lot less unpleasant.

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Rabbi Chaim Goldberg has semicha from RIETS and a graduate degree in child clinical psychology from Hebrew University. Aside from practicing psychology and teaching Torah at various yeshivot/seminaries, he runs Mussar Links, a non-profit dedicated to publishing the Torah writings of Rabbi Hillel Goldberg.