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'Thank you, God:' Chicago rabbi celebrates release of 2 Gaza hostages

Meir Hecht, rabbi to two women released Friday from captivity in Gaza, says he and his congregation will celebrate their safe return.
Posted at 9:35 PM, Oct 20, 2023

In front of his home in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Rabbi Meir Hecht told Scripps News he feels like God has answered his community's prayers.

"Thank you, God" — Hecht says those will likely be his first words to Judith and Natalie Raanan.

The mother and daughter from Evanston, Illinois, had been staying at a kibbutz in Israel called Nahal Oz when Hamas militants stormed the area.

Rabbi Hecht says his congregation outside Chicago has been praying for the two and other hostages Hamas kidnapped from Israel.

"Judith and Natalie are the kindest, most giving, sharing people," Hecht said. "Judith was always the first person to be there for the community, for any person in need. And the knowledge that they are coming back home is just so heartwarming and overwhelming."

Hecht says a series of vigils are planned — and with Friday being the beginning of the Jewish sabbath, he and his congregation will be expressing what they say is gratitude to God for their release.

They are also praying for those still being held, he says.

2 US hostages held in Gaza have been released
Judith Raanan, left, and her daughter Natalie, 18.

2 US hostages held in Gaza have been released

Judith Raanan and her teenage daughter Natalie Raanan were received by security forces at the border of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli government said.