Riverdale Y CEO’s letter from Israel trip with Congressman Ritchie Torres

A message from our CEO, Melissa Sigmond:

Last week I traveled to Israel as part of a small New York City Bronx leaders delegation, led by Congressman Ritchie Torres, along with colleagues from UJA-Federation of NY. The trip was impactful, emotional but also truly inspiring.

At the start of the visit, we arrived in Tel Aviv where we met with families of hostages. I spoke with the father of Omer Shem Tov, who has no information about his son’s whereabouts or well-being. He said, “I don’t think about myself, I just think about him.”

Each family member we met told us stories, and they also expressed that there are dedicated to doing everything they can to raise global awareness to bring their loved ones home. Later in the evening, we visited Hostages Square with some of the families and saw the empty Shabbat table set up with chairs equal to the number of hostages still held captive.

The public installation is outside of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, to remind the world that we need to bring back the hostages now, so they can share Shabbat dinner with their families.

We headed south to Kibbutz Nir Oz, seeing many of the communities that were severely impacted and then traveled to the site of the Nova music festival, where we met with one of the founders, Ofir Amir. Ofir told us about the pain and suffering of the festival community who lost so many lives during the attack. However, many of the survivors from the festival are focused on transforming their loss into organizing mental health support and treatment for survivors and for any families that lost loved ones. Ofir shared with us that he will be coming to New York with the Nova Music Festival Exhibition later in April. The theme of the exhibition is “We will dance again” and it will include items salvaged from the festival grounds, a healing tent and lighthouse. Donations from the exhibition will go to the Nova healing journey, to directly support the victims and families.

The trip also included conversations with Israeli government leaders, members of parliament and Israeli executives, who have volunteered thousands of hours, to support families that have been displaced. I was so deeply honored and humbled to be a part of this brief trek, showing solidarity and learning first-hand about what is happening on the ground in Israel, not just what one reads in the media.

My sincerest thanks to UJA and Congressman Torres, for inviting me on this illuminating journey during incredibly complicated conditions and challenging times.

Stay in the Loop

Be the first to know about special events and promotions at the Riverdale Y. Sign up for our weekly email newsletter, Happening At The Y.