After surviving the Nova Music Festival, Natalie Sanandaji Is leading the way as part of Chabad Young Professionals’ Mitzvah Ambassador campaign to share the light of Jewish unity.
Natalie Sanandaji woke up to the sound of rockets exploding overhead. It was a balmy morning at the Nova Music Festival, and her Israeli friends weren’t concerned; “It’s just a few rockets,” a friend said.
Then, security cut the music, “Head to your cars,” they said. The only dirt road out jammed fast. “Get out and run!” someone yelled. In her car, Natalie and her friends grew confused—until they heard the first gunshots.
They fled. “Kids ran in every direction,” Natalie recalls, “nobody knew which way was safe.” They passed a ditch, “hide here,” someone said. They ran instead. Later, they heard terrorists had shot everyone who hid there.
They ran for five hours. A police officer pointed to the nearest town—hours away by foot. Finally, they stopped under a lone tree in the desert. A white pickup appeared, driving at them fast. They looked at each other, thinking, “It’s over.” It was an Israeli man. He drove them to the nearest town, then drove back into the desert to rescue more.
Now safely back home in Great Neck, New York, Natalie is shaken by what she’s been through, but she’s also playing a leading role in the fight against darkness. She’s joined the ranks of Chabad Young Professionals’ Mitzvah Ambassador program and has been inviting her friends to come together to light Shabbat candles.
Natalie shared her story at Chabad Young Professionals International’s Ambassadors of Peace launch event on Sunday, October 29. Now, she’s just one of hundreds of young Jewish professionals across the world who have stepped up in recent weeks to share the power of Shabbat Candles, Tefillin, and other mitzvah opportunities with their wider social circle.
“We are all inspired to see Natalie’s determination to lead,” says Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice-chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the umbrella organization that oversees Chabad Young Professionals. “Jews everywhere want to reconnect right now; Mitzvah Ambassadors are giving their friends a meaningful way to embrace their Jewish connection.”
For Natalie, being a Mitzvah Ambassador is a way to inspire what allowed the Jews to outlast their adversaries: faith and unity. “This isn’t the first time a group has tried to destroy us,’” she says, “I realized that even if our enemies outnumber us, they’re not bigger—we have our faith in Hashem, and we have our love for each other; that’s what gives us the power to persevere.”
Some Mitzvah Ambassadors, like Rebbecca Kovach of Palm Harbor, Florida, have turned their homes into a center of Mitzvah activity. On Sukkot, she and her husband asked friends to join them in the Sukkah. Since October 7, she’s been looking forward to inviting her friends over to light Shabbat candles.
“I’m excited,” she says. “There’s something so special about adding one more mitzvah to your life, my friends are going to be excited about this.”