Yad L’Achim Chanukah Program Helps 101-Year-Old Nun See the LightDecember 24, 2023
“When the soul shines, even the darkest of heavens emit a pleasant light,” goes the well-known saying. During these dark days of war, Yad L’Achim stepped up its efforts to spread light to lost Jewish souls in no less than 12 major Chanukah gatherings held across the country.
Events held in Yerushalayim, the Haifa area and Rishon Letzion drew a total of 300 women survivors of Arab villages and missionaries. Addressing these gatherings were dynamic speakers like Rabbanit Orit Salomon and Rabbani Yona Nusbacher. While Rabbanit Nusbacher focused on the Jewish-halachic aspect of the holiday, Rabbanit Salomon spoke mainly of its emotional side, and the personal connection of the participants to Chanukah.
The message of the holiday, of light overcoming darkness, held a special meaning this year. Following the massacre of Jews in the south and the thousands of missiles landing throughout the country, these heroic women found themselves thanking G-d for delivering them from the jaws of evil. They shuddered to think what might have been had they not been rescued in time, had they been living in enemy villages during this war. In the past, they were subjected to violence during IDF campaigns against Hamas; how much worse would things be if they had been in the village during this prolonged campaign to eradicate the terror organization.
Harav Shmuel Lifschitz, one of the heads of Yad L’Achim, spoke at a gathering in Rishon Lezion and emphasized the need for each individual to contribute to the continuity of Am Yisrael. When we strengthen the connection of our children to eternal Jewish values, in the home and at school, we are preserving the existence of Am Yisrael. This is the time for each parent to light a small candle that will join with others to create a large, eternal torch.
According to Mrs. Suri Kostlitz, who organized the programs: “Chanukah is the holiday of Jewish identity. The war of the Maccabees was a religious war, an existential war for the Jewish people. If not for the Maccabees, Am Yisrael wouldn’t exist today. The essence of our work with young girls is to strengthen their Jewish identity and to convey to them their central role in passing on our Jewish heritage.
“We have stressed to them that the miracle came about through a woman, and the power of the Jewish woman who is ready to sacrifice her life for the continued existence of Am Yisrael.”
A large Chanukah party was held in Ashdod for Jews rescued from missionaries, drawing some 150 people. Other events were held in Haifa, Nof Hagalil, Netanya and Ramat Gan for girls who escaped cults and for Jewish refugees from Ukraine who have been targeted by missionaries.
Yad L’Achim visited 200 homes across the country to bring Chanukah joy to those who couldn’t attend mass gatherings. One activist visited a 101-year-old Holocaust survivor who had converted to Christianity and was living in a convent in Yerushalayim; the activist brought Chanukah candles which she lit in her room in the convent…
The head of Yad L’Achim’s countermissionary department, Harav Chanoch Gechtman, said: “We were happy to see her leave the convent and abandon Christianity. There is no doubt that the Chanukah candles that she lit there, in the darkness of the convent, was a significant milestone in her journey back to Judaism. B’ezras Hashem it will turn into a large light, that will ignite the Divine spark in her and bring her back to the G-d of Israel.”
A Yad L’Achim official summed up the organization’s Chanukah programming as follows: “The youngest participant was a four-month-old baby who was born in [the Bedouin village of] Rahat and who was rescued with his mother just two weeks after his birth. At the other end of the spectrum, we brought the light of Chanukah to a 101-year-old Jewish woman.
“We have no doubt that the souls we lit up over the holiday will turn into a large flame that will illuminate their surroundings with the light of Jewish faith that is being passed from generation to generation.”