'Wait, don't go! I'm a Jew!'

Yeshiva students distributing Hanukkah candles awaken dormant memories in a Jewish woman married to a non-Jew.

Shimon Cohen,

The students and the woman
The students and the woman
Karov Lalev

A group of students from the Maalot hesder yeshiva in Israel's north distributing menorahs, Hanukkah candles, and chocolate coins to local residents aroused dormant memories of a Jewish woman's deceased grandfather.

The students arrived at the woman's home as part of a program from their yeshiva and the "Karov Lalev" organization, which aims to overcome the deep rift between the diverse Jewish populations in Israel and strengthening social cohesion. As part of the program, students meet and chat with local residents every Thursday night. Over 800 students in 12 high school and post-high school yeshivas across the country participate in the program.

"We knocked on her door and an older man opened it, smiled at us, and immediately said he's not Jewish and not interested," hesder yeshiva student Geffen Meir said. "We were about to continue on when his wife appeared and said, 'I'm a Jew!' and invited us in. They both speak Russian, and spoke to us only in English. They didn't understand Hebrew."

"When we suggested she light the Hanukkah candles, and arranged the menorah, she looked as if she was completely transfixed by childhood memories. She became very emotional and cried. For dozens of years she had not managed to light Hanukkah candles, and suddenly we brought a Hanukkah menorah to her home. For us, it was an unforgettable experience."

"The program aims to offer the yeshiva students informal meetings with Jews of other denominations, in the most simple and natural way," Karov Barechov CEO Dan Katz said. "This emotional encounter is just one of many stories occurring around Hanukkah and other holidays all over the country. This is what gives us strength to continue our work, and to continue spreading light in Israel."