Trip to help the Jewish people | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Trip to help the Jewish people

Sarah Langer said she felt lost after the Oct. 7 attack in Israel by Hamas.

The events of that day resulted in about 1,200 deaths and about 250 people being taken hostage, according to news reports. As the war continued, Langer said she felt compelled to act.

Originally from Glendale, Langer now lives in Chicago, where she works in real estate investment. Langer said she does not necessarily identify as a Zionist, but she feels “a deep, inexplicable connection to Israel.”

In the wake of the war, Langer wanted to be of service.

“There’s so much that needs to be done,” Langer said. “We’re so far away, and giving money is great, and it’s definitely needed. … But when I saw that there was a volunteer mission, I was like ‘OK, I’m gonna go.’”

Langer signed up for a trip organized by the Jewish National Fund. She spent Dec. 24 -28 last year volunteering and learning about the impact of the conflict.

During her trip, Langer said she worked at an agricultural cooperative and assembled care packages for soldiers and patients at Soroka Medical Center, the hospital that took care of many of the wounded in the aftermath of Hamas’ attack.

For Langer, an important aspect of the trip was hearing personal accounts. As an example, she said, her group of volunteers stayed in the dormitories of a high school, where the food service program was run by a Chasidic Jewish man. The man also volunteers with United Hatzalah of Israel, an ambulance service.

Despite his religious practices, Langer said she learned the man kept his phone on and responded to the attack, which took place during Simchat Torah.

“The volunteering was almost secondary just to being able to hear from folks and being able to come back and share what we heard from them,” Langer said.

Initially, Langer said, she did not share much about her travels, believing she ought to make her contributions with humility and anonymity. She said she decided to open up about the experience as she saw the events in Israel and Gaza become a polarizing topic.

Langer said she does not support all positions of the Israeli government, but she felt “that the Jewish people needed me, and that the situation with the hostages, regardless of your viewpoint, is something that is heartbreaking.”

Langer hopes sharing stories from her mission trip will generate support for Israel and for the release of the remaining hostages. She said she encourages people to separate thoughts about the Israeli government from the war in Gaza.