More than 400 orphans and 150 widows attended the annual Colel Chabad Hanukkah retreat this week at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem. The three-day getaway included full meals, nightly candle-lighting and parties, day excursions, and children’s and youth entertainment programs.

For Elana, a mother of two young daughters, the retreat is something their family looks forward to every year. “When my husband passed away suddenly in an accident a few years ago, I was here without a support network, as my family is in the United States. Colel Chabad has really been a source of strength for me and my daughters in the aftermath of his tragic death.”

The retreats are designed to alleviate some of the hardship of loss that the bereaved often feel during family-oriented times.

“Holidays are always difficult without a complete family unit and without other family in Israel; we didn’t have a natural support network to turn to on holidays,” said Elana. “Colel Chabad has created a place which supports and nourishes us—that gives us strength and also hope to look forward to spending holidays together. We meet other children and women with similar experiences. While it might just sound like a retreat to the outsider, for those who have suffered loss, this program is life-changing.”

Israel’s longest-running social services organization since 1788, Colel Chabad provides community and support to Israel’s needy and bereaved through various programs and projects, including scholarships and tutoring or enrichment programs for students, job training for mothers, and monthly or weekly food packages for those in need.

“The holiday is a time of light and joy, and to see these wonderful families who have gone through so much be able to relax, enjoy and bond with others in similar situations is truly a blessing,” said Rabbi Sholom Duchman, director of Colel Chabad. “Thank you to the Finger family and the Meromim Foundation for their continued support of this project.”

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