Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Assumption parishioners in Israel as Hamas attacks unfolded 

Group is safe and en route to Peekskill via Jordan
Holy Child School in Bethlehem where Assumption parishioners were this weekend. 

A group of 50 parishioners from Assumption Church in Peekskill were in Bethlehem, Israel on Saturday as the shocking attack by Hamas unfolded just fifty miles away near Gaza. The group was delivering school supplies to the Holy Child Program, a therapeutic education program founded for children who are affected by experiences of trauma. 

The group has been on pilgrimage in the Holy Land since October 2, and are returning to the United States today, uninjured from the traumatic assault that took place in Israel on Saturday. Four additional people from St. Ann’s Church in Ossining are traveling with the Assumption parishioners, led by Pastor Esteban Sanchez. 

When the attacks in Israel by Hamas began on Saturday, the group had reached Bethlehem on the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. They were delivering supplies to the school run by Franciscan sisters. According to Israeli press accounts, a barrage of Hamas-fired rockets struck locations in and around Jerusalem – including Bethlehem – on Monday, after the Assumption group had departed the area.

In a conversation with the Herald Wednesday, Cathy Bischoff, Assumption’s religious education director explained there are very few educational options for children who are suffering from untreated, complex mental health issues and exposure to intergenerational trauma. The school provides an intense therapeutic day treatment program and alternative education for children in the Bethlehem region. 

When Bischoff visited the school in September, she noticed the lack of classroom supplies for the children.  Upon returning to Peekskill, she learned that Father Sanchez had a pilgrimage to Israel planned for October. Bischoff tasked her Confirmation students to collect school supplies from parishioners during weekend masses two weekends ago. 


Assumption pastor Esteban Sanchez at last year’s blessing of the animals.


“People who were allowed two suitcases filled one with their clothes for the trip, and the other suitcases were filled with the supplies,” related Bischoff to the Herald on Wednesday evening. They carried notebooks, construction paper, pens, pencils, rulers and other classroom supplies in their luggage and delivered them to the school last Friday and Saturday. 

Bischoff said she’s heard from Fr. Sanchez during the trip and that the group was safe. While most direct flights from Israel to the United States have been canceled since the weekend attack, the Assumption group planned to return to the United States via Jordan, and the group is expected to be back in Peekskill at the end of this week. 


On Fr. Sanchez’ Facebook page, six days ago, he posted a video of the group on a boat on the Sea of Galilee listening to a singer.

There were men and women of all ages on the pilgrimage along with children, including a family with their five and nine year old children, according to Bischoff. 


About the Contributor
Regina Clarkin
Regina Clarkin, Editor and Publisher
When the Peekskill Herald weekly newspaper ceased publishing in August 2000 it was the first time in the history of the city that there wasn’t a local newspaper.  The award-winning weekly was often referred to as the ‘glue’ of the community. Founded on January 9, 1986 by Regina Clarkin, Kathy Daley and Rich Zahradnik with a $7,000 credit card line, the paper filled the void created when the daily Evening Star was sold to Gannett and moved out of town. Founding publisher Regina Clarkin continued to live in the Peekskill Cortlandt area and turned her attention to other life endeavors.  Through the ensuing 19 years, Clarkin was frequently stopped in town and asked when she would start up the Herald again. In January 2019, Clarkin decided it was less labor intensive to deliver a weekly blog than a print newspaper so she began posting one story a week about life in Peekskill. After a successful crowd funding campaign in 2020, the Herald was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in July of 2021. Peekskill Herald is a digital relative of the former print edition, featuring many of the favorite aspects of the beloved Peekskill Herald such as old pictures, personality profiles and well written stories about newsworthy events. Regina Clarkin is the editor and publisher of the site. Photo by Joe Squillante