The turbulent events in Israel sparked a mitzvah-focused movement across Pittsburgh, impacting hundreds of Jewish women from diverse backgrounds to unite and usher in the light of Shabbat.
In the span of three weeks, 700 women collectively lit 2,000 Shabbat candles. It all started when a community member approached Chani Altein, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Unsatisfied with just contributing financial aid and with the awareness that not everyone is in a position to do so, she felt a unity campaign of some sort would go a long way towards expressing solidarity and providing spiritual help to those suffering in Israel.
“Together, we launched the ‘Light for Israel’ campaign, and it rapidly gained momentum,” she said. “Using the OneMitzvah platform, hundreds of women from diverse backgrounds embraced this opportunity, eager to contribute spiritual protection for the soldiers and hostages. We hope this campaign will be the catalyst for many more women to continue performing this special mitzvah each week.”
Encouraging words were shared as part of a video collage on the campaign site, providing strength and meaning. Naomi, a lone soldier from Squirrel Hill in the Israel Defense Forces, expressed her gratitude, saying, “Thank you for your prayers and support. We feel it, and we are relying on it. Am Yisrael Chai!”
Shabbat candle kits, available for pickup at various locations throughout the city, made the mitzvah accessible to anyone who wished to get involved. Some had been lighting candles for many years and some did so for the first time, but all dedicated this special mitzvah to the merit of their Israeli brethren.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch—the educational arm of the Chabad movement—said that “grassroots campaigns such as this are truly the backbone of the Rebbe’s vision to unite Jews and illuminate the darkness all over the world with the simple act of a mitzvah.”
Spearheaded by Altein, the initiative was led by the following emissaries and community leaders: Rebbetzin Blumi Rosenfeld, Batya Rosenblum, Miri Goldwasser, Esther Schapiro, Leah Feller, Sarah Rosenfeld, Sara Weinstein, Chasi Rothstein, Chani Silverman, Bassie Rosenfeld, Chanie Rosenblum, Hindy Rosenblum and Rivkee Rudolph.