Dear Readers,

This past week, I had a video call with Daniel Wais in Israel.

On October 7th, Daniel and his family were in Kibbutz Be’eri. Thank G‑d, he and his brothers were able to escape, uninjured. Tragically, his father, Shmuel, was murdered, and his mother, Judith, was kidnapped and taken as a hostage to Gaza.

The family did whatever they could, unsuccessfully, to try to get Judith released. In mid-November, the IDF called to tell him that they found his mother’s body, with gunshot wounds, near the Shefa hospital. Through a special operation, they were able to rescue her body and bring it back to Israel for proper Jewish burial.

Prior to receiving the news, along with many of the families of the hostages, Daniel had flown to New York—on a trip organized by Chabad of Israel—to pray at the Ohel of the Rebbe. He insisted on bringing along his guitar so that he could play for the other families, hoping to use the power of music and connection to touch their hearts and transform their pain into healing.

Daniel told me the trip was filled with so much love and compassion, it provided him with the power to go on.

My conversation with Daniel took place on the day after the sheloshim (30 days of mourning) for his mother. It was obviously a very emotional time for him and his family. When I asked how he was coping with so much pain and loss, he shared with me something that I thought was a deep testimony to the power of the Jewish soul.

Daniel said that he used to view himself as an Israeli. That was his identity. But after what he has experienced, both in Israel and abroad, he now feels the power of being a Jew. The kindness and outpouring that he has felt from Jews worldwide has made him realize the power of being part of the Jewish community. “We care for each other in such a deep way. It is empowering and helps me continue.”

This week’s Torah portion is “Vayechi,” which means “and he lived,” yet the portion is all about Jacob’s passing.

The Talmud (Taanit 5b) tells us: “Our father Yaakov did not die; as his progeny lives on, he too lives on.”

Throughout the millennia, the Jewish people have suffered countless trials and tribulations, innumerable massacres and persecutions. We may have been broken, but never crushed.

“As his progeny lives on, he too lives on.”

With heartfelt prayers for the safety of all our brothers and sisters worldwide, and for the immediate release of our hostages,

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW

P.S. How has your identity as a Jew strengthened since October 7th?