The Hamas terrorist organization has released two Jewish hostages, a mother and daughter from Evanston, Ill., who were being held captive with as many as 200 others in the Gaza Strip. At this time, their Chicago-based family has yet to receive formal confirmation.

Hostage Judith Ra’anan, 59, was born in Israel and moved to the United States 30 years ago, where she settled in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. For years she has been an active member of Chabad-Lubavitch of Evanston. Since Judith and her 19-year-old daughter Natalie’s capture 13 days ago, her synagogue and community has been on the front lines advocating for their return from captivity, as well as supporting their extended family during this crisis.

The two were traveling throughout Israel earlier this month visiting family, and celebrating the High Holidays and Sukkot. On Oct. 7, Judith and her daughter were in Kibbutz Nahal Oz near the Gaza Strip when Hamas terrorists broke in and began their rampage—brutally murdering some 1,400 Jewish men, women and children, and dragging others, including the Ra’anans, to Gaza.

Their kidnapping shook their friends and community in Evanston and around the world.

“Judith is a really kind, giving, sharing, generous individual who always wants to be there for others,” Rabbi Meir Hecht, co-director of Chabad of Evanston with his wife, Yehudis, told “She would come to our house and bring gifts to our kids. She wanted to be with our family and our community, attending our programs and helping out any way she could.”

“Judith,” Hecht continued, “is the first person to stand up and be present for anyone going through a challenge. She is caring and always wants to contribute.”

At a communal tehillim gathering last week organized by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries from across the Chicago area and attended by some 1,000 people, prayers were said for Natalie and Judith.

After graduating recently from Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Ill, Natalie took some time off to do some traveling. She had visited Italy for a short while and then met up with her mother in Israel.

Rabbi Hecht has spent the last two weeks advocating for the Ra’anans and bringing national attention to their plight. He is hopeful the news of their release is accurate, but asks that people continue to keep Judith and Natalie in their prayers, as well as continue to pray and increase in acts of kindness in the merit of the safe return of every single one of the remaining hostages.

“We need to remember that ‘yeshuat Hashem k’heref ayin,’” the rabbi says, “the salvation of G‑d comes in the blink of an eye.”

Judith and Natalie Ra'anan
Judith and Natalie Ra'anan