It seems kinda arbitrary—what to do first? Face painting or the moonbounce?

2:30 p.m. Chanukah Wonderland of the Chabad of the Five Towns.

We made our way through what seemed like hundreds of kids, parents, and staff... booths, crafts, legos, and activities... So much was jam-packed into such a small space, we could start our fun anywhere, and it would be just right.

So, what to do first? Face painting or the moonbounce?

Well, if anyone would have made a shortlist of what my son Uriyah might enjoy at an indoor carnival, the moonbounce would definitely be on top of the list, followed by legos and crafts, for sure. For some reason, I took him to get his face painted.

We stood gingerly on line as my husband Yossi took our daughter Ma'ayan to the toddler area. We were on line for ages. I even let someone nudge ahead of us. About seven girls, and Uriyah, the lone boy, waiting patiently for his turn. I met an old friend of mine—she was ahead of me on line with her daughter. As the menorah was barely finished on her daughter's face, she announced that she's going to the moonbounce. I watched her walk off.

Once seated, Uriyah wanted a green dreidel on one cheek and a blue menorah on the other. And that's what he got. Once we finished, I traded with Yossi—I took Ma'ayan to nurse her, and Yossi took Uriyah to... make a candle. Of all things.

I made my way to the other side of the room to some benches, within earshot of the rally that was being telecast at the time. I saw another old friend of mine... we chatted about small stuff. Of course, it all seems small in light of what happened next. I was looking at the window diagonally across, when suddenly, a car drove through the glass, driving so, so fast, legos flying through the air, as it collided into the moonbounce...

I can tell you so much, and yet still too little, about the next moments... How I, by the Mercy of G‑d, found my husband and son safe, and so quickly, while others were screaming for their loved ones; how my husband ran off to help the injured, while I ran outside with the kids, when he found us later, his shirt was bloodstained, his face soaked with tears; running on glass, cradling my kids, looking for our coats, trying to keep calm, all the time murmuring, "Thank G‑d, Thank G‑d," while others were searching for their kids, their mothers, their fathers, everyone's faces tear-stained.


All I could think was—is this what its like in a terrorist attack, all the mayhem, all the sadness, the fear, the 'it-could-have-been-me" feeling, or worse, the 'it-could-have-been-my-kids" feeling? If I got a taste of that today, then I can't even imagine the pain and trauma so many others have been through, in travesties so much larger.

After what seemed like an eternity, we left the 'Wonderland' and made our way to the Ohel, the Rebbe's resting place, to ask for mercy for those who were critically injured, and to thank G‑d for the sweet kindness He showed us today.

It's still very raw. Very sad. Very scary. Seems so arbitrary. Are we ever safe? Why did we have to see this? I just wanted to give my kid a good time, a little face painting, maybe a little moonbounce, and now he's afraid, tells me it's "scary at the Chabad House."


The night before, Yossi and I had gone to a Chanukah party at the Pinsons in Carrol Gardens. In a dark candlelit room with huge brass chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings, Rabbi Dov Ber Pinson asked everyone to meditate on the Menorah lights... Four flames shining against a brick wall, beautiful gold flames flickering with pride. Half the Menorah lit—the other half, still dark. The image of that menorah became embedded in my mind's eye.

And tonight, after the face painting, and car crash, and crying, and holding, and caressing, and praying, after all of it, we lit the Menorah at home. Five lights. Four plus one: half the menorah lit, plus one more light on the other side.

I remember last night's Menorah as I stare at tonight's. Something's changed for me, and my family, as we traveled in time, and space, from the fourth night of Chanukah to the fifth; from the right side of the menorah, past the shamash, to the fifth light. Something unexplainable and totally vulnerable...

Right now, it feels like the difference between face-painting and the moonbounce.


Editor's note: For more on this traumatic event, see:

Five Injured After Car Slams Into Long Island Chanukah Workshop
Long Island Community Musters Support for Victims of Traffic Accident
Children in Long Island Accident Return Home From Hospital