Local leaders, politicians rejoice over release of Evanston mother and daughter held in Gaza


The Chabad of Evanston rabbi and Deerfield High School’s principal were among local officials celebrating the release Friday of an Evanston mother and her teenage daughter held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

Rabbi Meier Hecht told the media he had not yet spoken with Chabad of Evanston member Judith Raanan or her 18-year-old daughter, Natalie, or heard specifics about their condition. They are the only hostages to be released since Hamas’ deadly attack Oct. 7 left more than 1,400 people dead and more than 200 captured.

Because they were released for humanitarian reasons, Hecht suspected the Raanans may not be in ideal condition, but said he hoped proper medical attention would change that quickly.

“This news that Judith and Natalie have been released from the hands of Gaza Hamas terrorists is overwhelming, and really we have this tremendous gratitude to God for his kindness in allowing them to go out,” Hecht said. “At the same time, we are deeply and painfully concerned for the 200-plus hostages that are still there in Gaza in the hands of vile, evil terrorists.”

Deerfield High School Principal Kathryn Anderson reported the entire District 113 community was thrilled by the news that recent Deerfield graduate Natalie and her mother had been released to the care of the Red Cross.

“We wish them safe and quick passage back to the U.S. so that they can be reunited with their family as soon as possible,” Anderson said in a statement.



Illinois elected officials from Gov. J.B. Pritzker to members of Congress joined the chorus of joy for the mother and daughter’s return.

Pritzker expressed relief for the Raanans’ release after being abducted by Hamas fighters during “what was supposed to be a visit to their loving family in Israel.” He added he looks forward to welcoming the Raanans back home to Illinois.

“We must continue to advocate and pray for the safe return of those still held by Hamas,” he said. “We will not let those who use terror as their weapon win.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, a member of both the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, also celebrated their release.

“This is — and should be — a day of celebration for them, but I know there are still so many families going through the unimaginable anguish of worrying about the fate of their loved ones still being held hostage and my heart goes out to them today too,” Duckworth said. “Hamas owes these families the swift release of all hostages, and they must immediately allow lifesaving medical care to reach those still in their custody as we work to secure their safe release.”

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston said the past two weeks “have been absolutely horrifying and heartbreaking, but today, we got a message of hope.”

“They are currently in good hands with the Red Cross, but I cannot wait to welcome them back home,” she said of the Raanans. “I am sending them my love and strength. I will continue to pray and do all I can to ensure the safe and swift return of all other hostages held by Hamas.”



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