(Moshe Kot)

For hundreds of fatherless children and their widowed mothers, Chanukah was just a little brighter this year thanks to Colel Chabad, an Israeli social services agency.

Hosted by the Chessed Menachem Mendel program of Colel Chabad, 400 fatherless children and their widowed mothers were invited to enjoy round the clock entertainment and activities with programs in Jerusalem. A secondary event in Netanya catered to families from the northern part of the country.

“The activities were magical, unique and well thought out,” said a mother from Petach Tikva, who lost her husband recently to terminal illness. “The warmth and love that come with this experience allowed us to relax and forget about our daily struggles – even if it’s just for a few hours at a time.”

At the nightly menorah-lighting ceremonies, each candle was lit by a child who had been personally affected by the loss of a parent.

Introduced each evening by Chessed Menachem Mendel director Rabbi Amram Blau, participants get to know each other and understand how they all share a common pain, but also a sense of purpose and recovery. Music, dancing, donuts and more followed the candle lighting.

“This Chanukah retreat is often a highlight of the year for these families,” said Rabbi Sholom Duchman, director of Colel Chabad, an Israeli social services agency. “Many of the families become friends and bond over these shared experiences, bringing even more joy to the children when they get to spend time with their friends. Bringing light and happiness to those who have experienced such hardships is our goal for the holiday and year-round.”

The retreat was made possible by the Finger family and the Meromim Foundation.