May 16, 2024
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YU Students Join Einav Danino, Mother of Hostage Ori, at Nova Exhibit

Einav Danino, mother of hostage Ori Danino, with students outside the Nova Festival exhibit.

(Courtesy of YU) On Tuesday, May 7, seven months to the day since the Hamas attack on Israel, 94 YU students from the Beren Campus attended the Nova Festival exhibit in Lower Manhattan.

Yet this was no ordinary group attending the famed exhibit. Also in attendance was Einav Danino, mother of Ori Danino, a 25-year-old hostage still being held by Hamas. Accompanying the group was Rabbi Shay Schachter, Associate Dean Shoshana Schechter and Rabbi Azriel Fine.

The exhibit features hundreds of items collected from the Nova Festival, including personal items of the attendees, many of which were displayed as they had been left after the attack: tents, blankets, chairs, water bottles, backpacks, books (including siddurim), as well as signage and the burnt and bullet-riddled cars that many used while trying to escape. A large table filled with attendees’ shoes was also on display— which immediately brought to mind photos of piles of shoes from those who perished in the Shoah. The exhibit also featured many screens of videos showing the horror of what happened on that terrible day: survivors telling their stories, cell phone videos of attendees hiding and expressing their fears, and Hamas-produced videos as they conducted the attacks.

The presence of Ms. Danino made the visit to the exhibit even more poignant for the students. In fact, this was her first time seeing any footage from that day. As she told the students later, Ori left the festival in his car with a friend immediately after they realized what was happening. After they arrived to safety, Ori decided he had to return to the festival to rescue three friends he met the night before. As Ms. Danino explained, he went back, giving a ride to random people who jumped into his car eager to escape, yet all were later stopped and taken hostage. Three of his passengers were brother and sister Maya Regev and Itay Regev (both of whom have since been freed), and Maya’s boyfriend, Omer Shemtov (who is still being held hostage). Ori has not been seen or heard from since.

In what turned out to be an unplanned, yet extraordinary, part of the trip, as some members of the YU group exited the exhibit into the sunlight of downtown Manhattan, they passed some students from New York University on the line waiting to see the exhibit. Rabbi Schachter approached them and introduced Ms. Danino to the appreciative and awed students. She spoke to them in Hebrew about her son, with Rabbi Schachter translating, which was then followed by members of the NYU group hugging and giving her emotional support and a photo taken with them at her request.

Stern College for Women students viewing tents and personal belongings at the Nova Festival exhibit in New York City.

Upon returning to the Beren campus, Rabbi Schachter showed Ms. Danino a wall of the Stern lobby filled with posters of many of the hostages, her son Ori’s poster among them. Ms. Daninothen took the time to speak to the students in the Beis Medrash, where the students were awed by her emunah in the face of such adversity as well as her hope for the future and the return of her son. Her words to the students were filled with inspiration and hope. Quoting from the perek of Tehillim, Mizmor Letodah, a Psalm of Thanksgiving, she said, “If Hashem has chosen me to have this nisayon (test), I thank him for it.” She shared that her son was given his name from the 27th perek of Tehillim, which begins, “Hashem Ori V’yishi,” and said she realized on October 7 that “the perek is his life. When I see Ori again, and he asks if I was angry at him for going back to save his friends, I will respond, ‘I’m proud of you and it is what I expected you to do.’”

Ms. Danino’s faith inspired everyone who spent time with her that memorable afternoon. “Attending the Nova Festival exhibit with Einav, experiencing the profound depth of a mother’s tears and the heartfelt tefillah and tikvah that accompanied those tears as well, was so deeply inspiring,” said Rabbi Schachter. The students will also never forget the experience. Said one in attendance, “Visiting the Nova exhibition was a whirlwind of emotions. I can’t even begin to imagine the brutality our brothers and sisters had to experience. Einav speaking with us was so incredibly difficult to handle, yet her trust in Hashem and resilience is indescribable and inspiring.”

The unique opportunity to spend time with Ms. Danino ended with the group reciting the 27th perek of Tehillim together with her. It was a most appropriate way for the YU students to end their time with this devoted mother and inspiring woman filled with emunah for the release of her beloved son and hope for the future.

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