An image from a fundraising campaign for the Raanans.

Offering support on their road to healing.

That’s what Chabad of Evanston, the congregation where Judith Raanan is a member, is working on.

Raanan, 59, and her 18-year-old daughter Natalie were in Israel for a family birthday when they were taken by Hamas invaders on Oct. 7, when the attackers crossed the border, overwhelmed the kibbutz where the Raanans were staying and took them to Gaza.

They were freed on Oct. 20

In a statement to Evanston Now, the local Chabad group said, “Many people lovingly reached out, asking how they can participate in welcoming Judith and Natalie home, and supporting their material and emotional needs.”

Judith and Natalie Raanan. Credit: Evanston Chabad

To that end, Chabad has launched a fund-raising campaign, with all the proceeds going directly to the Raanans.

Chabad Rabbi Meir Hecht told Evanston Now that “as members of our community and our neighbors here, it is our duty and responsibility to make sure that their needs are met after their horrendous suffering at the hands of Hamas terrorists.”

Hamas still holds some 230 hostages, from as many as 25 countries, according to NBC News. Most are Israelis, but about a dozen Americans are still captive.

It’s not clear why the Raanans were let go, instead of some of the other hostages.

At the time of their release, the Jerusalem Post reported that Hamas claimed they were freed on “humanitarian grounds,” because Judith was in poor health.

However, the Post, citing Israeli sources, said the release was actually done in an effort to delay an Israeli ground assault into Gaza.

Two other hostages, elderly Israeli women, have also been freed.

But on Monday, the Israeli government said that another hostage believed to have been kidnapped from a music festival, where more than 200 others were slaughtered, was beheaded by the militants according to Israeli President Issac Herzog.

Shani Nicole Louk, 22, had both German and Israeli citizenship. Her family says she was most likely killed before she was taken into Gaza.

The Israeli military Monday said it had rescued an Israeli soldier, Ori Megidish, during ground operations in the Gaza Strip overnight. She had been abducted by Hamas militants on Oct. 7.

At this point, it’s unknown when Judith and Natalie Raanan will return to Evanston from Israel, where they were taken after being freed.

Rabbi Hecht also told Evanston Now that while Chabad would love to have a “welcome home” celebration for Judith and Natalie whenever they do get back, that will be dependent on the status of the Israel/Hamas war at the time.

Update:  11 a.m. Oct. 31:

Natalie Raanan is now back in the Chicago area, according to a statement issued by the Israeli Consul General to the Midwest.

The Times of Israel reported that Consul Yanim Cohen posted on “X” (formerly Twitter) that Natalie returned to Chicago on Monday night.

“Her family members have been anxiously waiting for her return, and today I am sharing their happiness,” the post stated.

In an interview Tuesday morning with Fox 32, Cohen said that Natalie’s mother, Judith, “chose to remain in Israel for some time.” It is unknown when Judith will return home to Evanston.

Cohen also said that there are still 240 hostages, including children, held by Hamas in Gaza, likely in “underground tunnels in the Gaza Strip.”  For security reasons he did not want to elaborate.

The consul said the taking and holding of hostages is “a war crime.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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