When Liat Oren-Wachs heard the news that her ex-husband and father of her 11-year-old son, Igal, was murdered together with his brother, Amit, in the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel perpetrated by Hamas, she headed straight to her local Chabad center in Lexington, Mass.

“I went to Chabad, as this is where my community is. This is the place that I trust to find help and support when needed,” Oren-Wachs told Chabad.org. “Everyone came out of the sukkah to hug and comfort me. Many of them cried and offered their support. It warmed my heart.”

Oren-Wachs is one of countless American Jews across the country who have turned to their local Chabad-Lubavitch center for guidance amid the terrible news from Israel. Chabad Houses have answered the call, mobilizing to become epicenters of unity, support and Jewish pride.

For many communities, the news arrived piecemeal over the course of Shemini Atzeret-Simchat Torah, with many congregants finding out about the war by word of mouth as they prayed in synagogues on the first day of the holiday.

“A group of young Israelis came in looking for support and answers, that’s how we found out,” says Rabbi Shneur Cadaner, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Quad Cities, Iowa. “The immediate thing we did was tell them that this wasn’t the time for question; it was the time for action, to increase the light we add to the world, to make up for the darkness.”

At the conclusion of the holiday, from coast to coast, as one time zone turned to nightfall after the next, the buzz of activity around Chabad centers intensified. There were phone calls to make sure everyone was coping, unity rallies organized, mitzvah campaigns launched, prayers said and tears wept.

In the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., the broad, multi-laned Eastern Parkway was closed on a few-hours notice for a community prayer rally in support of Israel on Monday. Chairs were rented and a stage set up, and that evening more than 20,000 men, women and children came out for the largest gathering of Jews outside of Israel since the start of the war. They came one and old—20,000 of them—packing the street to participate in an emotional program that included the joint recitation of the 12 Torah verses and Psalms for the safety of the people and the land of Israel.

On Tuesday afternoon, UJA Federation of New York hosted a rally near the United Nations in Manhattan, which saw thousands of supporters come and pray. Among the thousands were a steady stream of black-hat-clad yeshivah students making their way through the crowd and handing out Shabbat candles or offering attendees the opportunity to put on tefillin. On Thursday evening, an even larger crowd took to 14th Avenue in the neighborhood of Borough Park in Brooklyn, filling the street to say tehillim (“psalms”) and pray.

In a stirring statement of solidarity with the Jewish people and the Jews of New York, in particular, Mayor Eric Adams declared that “your fight is our fight.”

He noted that New York has the largest Jewish population outside of Israel. “This is the place that our voices must rise and cascade throughout the entire country. We will not be alright until every person responsible for this act is held accountable. And we don’t have to pretend.”

Judith and Natalie Ra’anan
Judith and Natalie Ra’anan

Prayer Rallies and Vigils Around America

On Monday, in Chicago, Ill., Rabbi Meir Hecht hosted an event in the merit of an active member of Chabad of Evanston, Judith Ra’anan, who along with her 19-year-old daughter, Natalie, were on a weeks-long trip to Israel to celebrate the High Holidays and Sukkot. They are believed to have been abducted by Hamas and taken hostage to the Gaza Strip.

“Judith is a really kind, giving, sharing, generous individual who always wants to be there for

others,” says Hecht, co-director of Chabad of Evanston with his wife, Yehudis. “She

comes to our house and brings gifts to our kids. She wants to be with our family and our

community, attending our programs and helping out any way she can.”

The outpouring of grief in the Evanston Jewish community, Hecht says, has been overwhelming, and he knew he wanted to channel that towards a positive action: a tehillim gathering in the merit of Judith and Natalie’s safe return.

“Our community is devastated and pained by everything that is going on in Israel, and because of Judith and Natalie, it obviously hits very close to home,” Hecht said. “More than 1,000 people attended the rally and have been praying around the clock, trying to beseech G‑d any way we can through mitzvot and prayers. We are trying to be there for each other and support each other in this very painful time.”

Chabad Young Professionals gather in Manhattan.
Chabad Young Professionals gather in Manhattan.

College Students Show Their Support

At the Rohr Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Binghamton, N.Y., more than 600 Binghamton University students and local community members came together in the center of the campus on Monday to recite tehillim, sing and gain strength from each other while showing their support for Israel.

“A lot of students are very shaken up, and we are having a lot of group discussions and one-on-

one discussion,” said Rabbi Levi Slonim, director of programming at the Chabad center. “As Chassidim of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, we take our cues from him,” he continued.

“Three days after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he spoke at a farbrengen and said that in Psalms 121, we say that G‑d watches us and is our shadow. The Rebbe explained that the way Jews here act causes G‑d to act that way to other Jews. The more we strengthen ourselves in good deeds and joy, that will bring strength to our brothers and sisters in Israel,” Slonim explains.

It was standing-room only at the Chabad Jewish Community Center of Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Monday as Jews from across the city and of all ages came together to pray, sing along to Jewish songs and do good deeds in solidarity with their brethren.

“Everybody is affected by this, and the Jews of Jackson want to express themselves and scream out to G‑d to bring this to a positive conclusion,” said Rabbi Zalman Mendelsohn, director of the Chabad Jewish Center and the event organizer.

Candles were lit at a Thursday evening solidarity vigil held in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood , each representing a murdered Jew. The 1,300 they ultimately kindled was far more than Rabbi Yossi Eliav, director of Chabad of Clinton Hill and Pratt, could have imagined.

“We told the candle company initially that we needed 900 candles for the event. Then I called back to say we needed 1,000. On the day of the event, I called them and said I need 1,300,” Eliav said. “I didn’t want to add the candles but every minute, every hour, it’s just more and more death.”

(As of Tuesday, the death toll had reached 1,400 and counting.)

Candlelight vigil in support of Israel in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Candlelight vigil in support of Israel in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mitzvah Campaigns

During past conflicts in the Land of Israel and times of danger for the Jewish people, when things seemed bleak, the Rebbe made practical suggestions of mitzvahs to elicit G‑d’s protection.

Among them are coming together in unity for prayer, men putting on tefillin, women lighting Shabbat candles, putting a mezuzah on one’s doors, giving charity and doing acts of kindness, and studying Torah.

OneMitzvah, a program of Merkos 302 that creates programs and support for Chabad centers around the world, encourages people to “pledge” their mitzvot for Israel just as they would a monetary donation. Since the campaign began, there have been more than 100,000 mitzvot pledged out of a goal of 1 million mitzvahs.

Yoni Greenwald, a CTeen (Chabad Teen Network) leader from Coral Gables, Fla., took on the mitzvah of “praying a little more each day and being a little more kind to people.”

Nearby, in Boca Raton, Chabad played host to an evening of connection that united teens and the elderly in the recital of the Shema prayer, painting tzedakah boxes in support of the Land of Israel and engaging in dialogue about what being Jewish means to them.

“The teens are the ones who drive the campaign and initiate the conversations,” says Rabbi Yossi Denburg, director of CTeen of Boca Raton. “One elderly woman said that she hasn’t been comfortable saying the word ‘G‑d’ for many years. Sitting among our teens, talking with them, she is suddenly comfortable saying it again.”

Arman Saadat, a senior at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., and president of the Chabad Jewish Student Group, also signed the mitzvah pledge. “We’ve been working especially hard to make mitzvot available to as many Jews as possible at our university in order to help people in the land of Israel and Jews around the world,” he said.

“We have wrapped tefillin on as many people as possible,” he said. “We’ve promoted putting up mezuzot on doorways if you haven’t already, and we’ve had more requests in the last few days than we have the whole year.”

Saadat pointed out that there is a unique power to each individual mitzvah.

“Even if it’s not something you do every day or you think you do every day, if you consciously put the effort into doing the mitzvah, it’s extremely meaningful and the best thing we can do right now,” Saadat said.

In Livingston, N.J., the Chabad-affiliated Friendship Circle hosted a “Unite for Israel” challah bake on Thursday afternoon, co-sponsored by the local organization Naomi’s Challah.

“Given that baking challah is one of the designated mitzvot for women, this felt like a natural opportunity for Jewish women to come together as a community, and pray for the safety and well-being of our family, friends and Israel,” says participant Rachel Joffe. “I wholeheartedly believe in the power of tehillim—whether you say it alone or as part of a collective. At a time when so much is out of our hands, this is a concrete way that our small but powerful community of women can unite to make an impact.

Binyamin Konikov and Menachem Yunes at Chabad of the Space and Treasure Coast in Florida.
Binyamin Konikov and Menachem Yunes at Chabad of the Space and Treasure Coast in Florida.

Shabbat Candle-Lighting

Back in 1974, the Rebbe was speaking to a gathering of women when he suddenly began discussing the fact that we live in a spiritually dark time, and that it is vital to bring more spiritual light into the world. He said he wanted to introduce a campaign for every Jewish woman and girl, aged 3 and up, to light the Shabbat candles.

And so was born the Shabbat candle campaign, known in Hebrew as Neirot Shabbat Kodesh, or Holy Shabbat Candles. The Hebrew acronym, NeSheK, is also a word for weapon in Hebrew, and the Rebbe explained that the ultimate weapon of victory was the spiritual one. Women and girls flooding the world with the light of Shabbat and holiday candles would eradicate darkness in a way physical weapons could not.

Now, the “LightForIsrael” campaign has spread across social media, a global effort to fill in the missing light from the women who were murdered in the attack, as well as for those held hostage and unable to light their own Shabbat candles while in captivity. Women involved are connecting with Chabad centers nearby to get Shabbat candles and capturing the moment with a selfie, posting on their social profiles and encouraging three more friends to light the candles by tagging them and using the #LightForIsrael hashtag.

Indeed, one of the many Jewish women to speak out in favor of the Shabbat candle-lighting campaign is Rachel Edri, the grandmother from Ofakim who offered the group of terrorists who held her and her husband hostage in their own home refreshments and a meal, while waiting for army personnel to arrive.

“I started to talk to them. Have you had something to drink? Would you like tea or coffee?” she said in an interview, of her attempt to buy time until her son, a police officer, could arrive to help with his unit.

“I hosted them as best I could. I joked around with them. I played a game with them, in which they taught me Arabic and I taught them Hebrew,” she recalled. “I did it all to stay alive. I needed to stall until the cavalry came to the rescue.”

“I turn to all Jewish women and girls. The true weapon is in your hands,” Edri said in a plea to Jewish women around the world. “That weapon is Shabbat candles. I ask each of you to light Shabbat candles this Shabbat, so that with the help of G‑d, all the hostages will come back home.”

A public-school student in a release time afterschool program with tzitzit and prayers for soldiers in Israel.
A public-school student in a release time afterschool program with tzitzit and prayers for soldiers in Israel.

Mezuzah and Tefillin

The Rebbe also always stressed the power of protection granted by mezuzahs, encouraging those who do not have them to get them, and check the ones they have to make sure they are kosher. Among the numerous mezuzah campaigns currently underway, Illini Chabad is challenging the students at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana to put up “100 mezuzot this week in prayer and solidarity for Israel, standing as proud Jews.”

Sharon Gillen, a New Orleans ophthalmologist, has only recently made a connection to her local Chabad center. “Because of everything that’s been happening in Israel, I was feeling so helpless. I really wanted to do something, and I saw that Chabad here in New Orleans was participating in this mitzvah campaign.” She reached out to the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center at Tulane University, to attach a mezuzah to her doorway. “I did it for protection and also to send more protection and prayers to Israel,” she said.

Another mitzvah fundamental to the strength and security of the Jewish people and Israel is tefillin, which the Rebbe formally introduced in the very tense runup to the 1967 Six-Day War. While Chabad yeshivah students and rabbis have kicked their efforts to put tefillin on with Jewish men into high gear during the last week, some efforts have been virtual. Using the social-media network X (formerly Twitter), Rabbi Avromy Super has successfully spurred 1,500 Jewish men to reach out and wrap tefillin.

On Oct. 8, Super, the Chabad emissary on the Caribbean island of S. Lucia, posted, “I will get a pair of tefillin to the first person who commits to start wrapping every day in honor of our brothers and sisters in Israel.”

The response was overwhelming, as the initial post was seen more than 130,000 times and reposted again and again.

“We now have a list of over 1,500 people who want tefillin,” he says, noting that the first pair was delivered on Tuesday. “It’s gone way beyond me and my initial tweet.”

Part of that success is due to Dan’s Deals, a popular consumer deals website run by brothers Dan and JJ Eleff, that features shopping and travel bargains. JJ Eleff was scrolling through X when he noticed Super’s message.

“I thought it was amazing, and so I reached out to Rabbi Yochonon Klein, a Jewish scribe here in South Florida who runs an organization called ‘Healing Hearts,’ ” says Eleff. “I asked him if he has any tefillin in stock, and he said he has 30 pairs. So Dan and I decided to sponsor those first 30 pairs.”


In hundreds of initiatives across the United States, Chabad rabbis and volunteers have hit the streets to help their fellow Jews put on tefillin, give tzedakah, and to increase in goodness and kindness. The black hat and jacket are ubiquitous sightings on the street and by rallies around the country, seeking to help their fellow Jews find a mitzvah to contribute.

In the days after the war broke out, Chabad emissaries set up a booth at JFK airport in New York to provide food, support, tefillin and words of thanks for those who volunteered to go to Israel to support the war effort.

The Released Time program, which provides Jewish education and programming for Jewish children in public schools, helped Jewish children on Wednesday decorate prayer cards to take home and pray with their families and friends.

“We wanted to share with the children the mitzvot of tefillah [‘prayer’] and tzedakah. By Hashgacha Pratis (Divine providence), the children had made tzedakah boxes to bring home last week.” Rabbi Yanky Hecht told Chabad.org. “So we helped each kid make a ‘tefillah’ card with their favorite prayers to bring home and to say Shema each day and give tzedakah in the merit of those in the land of Israel.”

The mitzvahs that we do, the Rebbe would often reiterate, have a unique power to affect not only us, but our brethren in harm’s way, both in Israel and anywhere else on the globe. For the Jewish people are one people with one heart—one body and soul—and just as one part of the body feels what is happening to the other, so too do Jews in one part of the world feel the pain and rejoicing of their fellows in another. Thus the good we do here has a direct spiritual impact on our brothers and sisters in Israel, drawing down blessings when they need them most.

To pray for the safety of all residents of the Holy Land, Psalms 20, 22, 69 and 150 are traditionally said in times of distress.

For more information, inspiration and insights on the Gaza War visit Chabad.org’s Israel at War home page, which includes 7 Things You Can Do for Israel Now and instructions on how to Donate to the Israel Emergency Relief Fund.

This story was reported by Moshe New, Faygie Levy Holt and Ellen Braunstein. It was written by Moshe New.