July 14, 2024
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Hedva Federman

From Milwaukee To Herzliya

“Each morning, first thing, before I eat or drink anything, I say a chapter of Tehillim for ‘my hostage.’” This is what Hedva Federman said while driving me to Chicago from Milwaukee, where I had given a series of lectures at events organized by Chabad.

“There was an event held here, where everyone was encouraged to ‘adopt’ a hostage, and pray for them,” Hedva explained. “I adopted Omer Shem Tov, whom I was told is 21, and so I have been reciting Psalm 22 every day for him.” (There is a custom to recite the number of the Psalm that corresponds to the number of a person’s upcoming birthday, for Divine protection.)

“Wait, he didn’t turn 22 yet, right?” Hedva asked. “Because then, I’d have to be saying Psalm 23.”

I immediately texted Shelly Shem Tov, Omer’s mother, who was excited to hear about Hedva’s efforts on behalf of Omer. For her part, Hedva was excited that from her car in the U.S. we could message Shelly in Herzliya. And Omer? His birthday is in October, at which time we hope and pray he will have returned home!

 

When the Darkness of Falsehood Is Vanquished by the Light of Truth

Until recently, there was an encampment of Hamas supporters on the lawn of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. We must never normalize these encampments, nor may we forget that in the academic institutions of the world’s leading superpower, the horrors of October 7 were legitimized amid calls for the destruction of Israel.

During my recent visit to Milwaukee, I visited Talia and Ben Voskoboynik, a sweet, young couple, in their new apartment located directly opposite the site of the former encampment. They were excitedly preparing for their first event as Chabad emissaries while still in the process of setting up house.

Ten students arrived at the event, and we had a lively discussion about Israel and the current situation, the media and what was happening on college campuses. Talia and Ben shared that they were once young Americans far from their roots, until they discovered their Judaism during college. As I expressed my wish that the apartment would quickly become too small for the hundreds of students that would be flocking to their Shabbat meals, I realized that I had come to the United States, not for the large-scale lectures that I delivered, but rather to see ten young Jews coming together to strengthen their identity during these confusing times.

Sivan addressing American journalists.

How to Respond to the Foreign Press

During my visit to Chicago and Milwaukee, I also had a fascinating meeting with a group of mostly non-Jewish journalists. All were genuinely eager to understand the truth about the situation — but when they asked about babies dying in Gaza, I knew that I had to deliver a well-thought-out answer. And then I answered their question with a question of my own: “Who do you think, in all honesty, has a greater interest in seeing dead babies in Gaza?”

After a moment’s thought, one person answered “Sinwar,” followed by another who said the same thing. It didn’t take long before it became clear to everyone in the room that Israel has no interest in harming Gazan babies, whereas Hamas has a clear desire for as much collateral damage as possible. Clearly, they have no sensitivity to human life; the higher the death toll, the greater their legitimacy and influence.

We went on to discuss the October 7 attack, the UN, the hostages, the upcoming US elections and responsible reporting in the era of social media. At the end, one woman spoke up and said, “I understand that the antisemitism on campuses is not the problem of American Jewry; it’s the problem of all Americans.”

My thanks to Levi Stein for organizing the meeting and to the journalists who displayed an open mind, giving me hope for the future.

 

Changed by October 7

Anat Meir is the widow of Cpt. David Meir, who fell in battle at Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7. “If someone had told me prior to that day that I would lose my other half,” she shared, “I would have said that I for sure would never get out of bed ever again, and that I would be done with God. But then it happened. Somehow, I do manage to get out of bed, and also, my faith has only been getting stronger. In fact, my whole perspective on life has changed.

“I never imagined that my name would be seen on an announcement publicizing a mass gathering of women to pray for unity and redemption, or that I would be speaking about the Mashiach. And I have a feeling that many agree, even those who did not suffer personal loss. None of us are the same today as we were before Simchat Torah.

With students in Milwaukee.

“I think something is happening here that is much bigger than us, something impossible to understand, and yet full of hope for the future. Let’s not sugarcoat reality; the road to a glorious future is hard. Nor do we have any idea how and when it will happen, since we have no inkling of God’s plans— but there is a distinct feeling that something unique and extraordinary is taking place.”

Anat has begun organizing inspiring prayer events at the Kotel, calling on all women to come and pray. “We all want peace, tranquility, security and clarity, and I have no doubt that our prayers have an extremely powerful impact. It is said that in the merit of righteous women the Jews were redeemed from Mitzrayim, and that in the merit of righteous women, we will be redeemed once again.”

* Translated by Yehoshua Siskin


Sivan Rahav Meir is a primetime news anchor on television and radio. Her “Daily Thought,” translated into 17 languages, has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. She has a weekly podcast on Tablet, called “Sivan Says,” and has published several books In Hebrew and English. Sivan was chosen by Globes newspaper as Israel’s most popular female media figure and by the Jerusalem Post as one of the 50 most influential Jews worldwide. She lives in Jerusalem with her husband Yedidya and their five children.

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