April 16, 2024
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Stern College and Yeshiva University’s Powerful Connection to Rescued Hostage

Rav Shay Schachter, left, faculty member at Stern, with released hostage Louis Har in the hospital.

It was two parallel scenes — 6,000 miles apart — filled with immense emotion, joy and gratitude to Hashem, to celebrate the release from captivity of Louis Har, a resident of Kibbutz Nir Yitzchak, one of the 240 hostages taken on Oct. 7, and one of two rescued this week.

Har’s daughters, Natalie and Rinat, were brought to the United States back in November, with the help of Rav Shay Schachter, a professor at YU’s Stern College for Women and the rosh beis midrash at the Young Israel of Woodmere, New York. Since the war broke out, Rav Schachter has been heavily involved in efforts to help bring victims and family members who suffered devastating losses due to the war to the U.S. to give firsthand accounts.

The Har sisters spoke to a standing room-only crowd of Stern students and faculty, sharing their father’s story. Har was one of five family members taken hostage on Oct. 7. “It was a very powerful evening,” said Professor Shoshana Schechter, a Teaneck native who is associate dean of Torah studies and spiritual life, director of the mechina program, and a senior lecturer in Bible at Stern College. “After hearing their story our students sang with them and embraced both Natalie and Rinat with warmth and with tears. The thousands of miles and cultural differences between us disappeared and the love and connection flowed throughout the room.”

Stern support for the Har family.

She noted how moved the sisters were by the love and support of the college students, who were so close to their age, who came to hear them speak, and how overcome they were seeing how much people all across the world cared about their father and were davening for his release.

Rav Schachter was headed to Israel on Sunday for a trip that had been planned weeks before, to meet with the many families whom he had helped bring to the U.S. in the last few months, and the Har sisters were to be among them. By that evening, news outlets were reporting the miraculous rescue of two of the hostages, brothers-in-law Fernando Marman and Har.

Rav Schachter visiting Louis Har.

The next day, amid the media frenzy and tearful reunions, the family insisted that Rav Schachter come to the hospital to meet their father and be a part of it all. Har and his daughters were so grateful for the way in which everyone at Stern embraced and supported them throughout this ordeal. Together they video-called Schechter to allow her and her students to share in the reunion.

Har then told Schachter that he was the first religious Jew he had seen since his rescue and asked what tefillah he could say to give thanks to Hashem. Rav Shachter explained about the bracha of Birkat HaGomel, which is the appropriate tefillah to recite after experiencing a life-threatening event.

Rav Schachter visiting Fernando Simon Marman.

With the deep connection the family now had to Yeshiva University, Schachter called Rav Aryeh Lebowitz, who was in the YU beis medrash, so that Har could recite Birkat HaGomel before all the men present and hear them respond, “Amen.” Naturally, celebratory singing and dancing followed.


Ronit Mershon is a staff writer at The Jewish Link.

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