I was sitting in my university classroom going over some notes for an upcoming test when I received an email stating that there had been a terror attack in Israel. My world stopped, eyes glued to the computer screen: “Eitam and Naama Henkin murdered in West Bank Terror”. News sources stated that four young children were in the car while the attack took place and were not physically harmed. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine four precious children who, in a matter of seconds, lost more than they could comprehend. In my helplessness, I mumbled a prayer for the wellbeing of the children, and wished that I wasn’t just so helpless.   

I wanted to do something to help these innocent children, to take the edge off their pain, to comfort my nation. I wanted to embrace my brothers and sisters in Israel who I was praying for and to tell them that I, as an American Jew, cared about them. I wanted to bridge the gap between Israeli Jews and Diaspora Jews in showing that “we” too, cared.

I wanted to write them a letter:

Dear Henkin Children,

I want to stretch out my hand across millions of miles until I feel your soft fingers interlaced in mine. I want soft ocean waves to carry you my song of togetherness, of warmth, and of hope. I want to find some light in the crevices of this earth and shine it on your beautiful faces. It’s difficult for me to focus on schoolwork because I am thinking about you. I’m afraid that because I live in America you may think that I do not care about the current situation in Israel. I’m writing you this letter to tell you that I do. I’m writing you this letter because I want you to know that I care fiercely about you, that I am praying for you, and that I love you.

Aviva

After writing this letter, I thought about my friends and family who were pained by the situation in Israel and would also want to write letters. I wondered what the impact could be if various organizations, schools, and shuls in my hometown of Baltimore would write letters to children and families in Israel affected by the recent wave of terror. I imagined the potential of communities throughout North America and the greater Jewish Diaspora writing hundreds, thousands of letters to the Henkin family, to the Lavi family, and to all the families affected by recent terror.

Unfortunately the constant news of persistent attacks enforced the need for such a project. I called my friend Yali Perlmutter who was moved by the idea and was excited to spearhead the project with me. After consulting with One Family Fund, the leading organization that supports victims of terror in Israel, Letters of Hope was created.

As of now, several shuls, schools, and organizations throughout Baltimore, St. Louis, New York, Minneapolis, Boca Raton, Los Angeles, and Miami are involved in the project. Many shuls are incorporating a Letters of Hope activity into their shul Hanukkah parties while other organizations are holding separate events for youth and adults to write letters and draw pictures for those affected by terror.

The Jewish people are one, all parts of the same complete, yet wounded body. During difficult times like these, we need to tangibly impart this knowledge of our oneness to our brothers and sisters in Israel. By sending heartfelt messages of support, care, and hope we can emphasize our unbreakable unity and communicate our boundless love. Through participating in Letters of Hope, we can vitalize our harmony, enforce our solidarity, and comfort our nation.

Getting involved is easy. Click here to send an electronic letter of hope.

If you would like to involve your community, organization, or school in this project please email vivikelman1@gmail.com or yaliperl25@gmail.com

With the letters and drawings received, Letters of Hope plans to create individualized books filled with heartfelt letters and drawings for families affected by terror.