By: Sandy Eller. A crippling Nor’easter that blanketed the greater New York City area in snow and had states of emergency declared in both New York and New Jersey was no match for the chesed of Klal Yisroel, as Misaskim and Hatzolah Air worked together to deal with some rather unusual circumstances as the mammoth winter storm raged on.
The events began Sunday night in tragedy, when 70 year old Shulem Friedman of Boro Park passed away unexpectedly while vacationing in South Florida with his wife and grandchildren. With a punishing two day storm just beginning to wreak havoc in New York and New Jersey, and the majority of flights coming in and out of JFK, Newark and LaGuardia cancelled, arranging kevurah in Kiryas Joel was far from simple.
The Jewish community’s well oiled chesed machine swung into action, with Eli Rowe of Hatzolah Air volunteering to fly the niftar home from Fort Lauderdale. It took hours to find an airport that could accommodate the flight and was also within driving distance of New York, and after considering locations in both Washington D.C. and Virginia, a plan was finally put in place to land in Atlantic City Airport late Monday morning, where the slightly warmer temperatures had the precipitation hitting the ground as rain, not snow. Arrangements coordinated by Misaskim had volunteers from Lakewood picking up the niftar and several accompanying family members at the Atlantic City airport and bringing them to a Misaskim team from Brooklyn who were waiting for them at the Eatontown exit on the Garden State Parkway. From there, the family members and the niftar were taken to the Cheesequake Service Area where a small levayah was held before the entire group was driven by Misaskim volunteers from Kiryas Joel to Orange County for kevurah.
The trip in treacherous weather didn’t go exactly as planned. Icy conditions on the Garden State Parkway had the Lakewood Misaskim team transporting the niftar skidding across four lanes of the highway, while a Misaskim vehicle from Brooklyn traveling to the meeting point slid off the road and went down an embankment. Thankfully, no one was hurt in either of the two incidents and Mr. Friedman was brought to kever yisroel without any further incident.
And yet the tragedy brought with it an opportunity for true simcha. When word got out that Misaskim volunteers from Lakewood and Brooklyn would be meeting on the Garden State Parkway, a request came in for several Flatbush boys to be driven to Deal so that they could attend their brother’s wedding, taking place just hours later. Ironically, the chosson and his siblings were no strangers to Misaskim, becoming part of Misaskim’s Project Yedid this past year after losing their father to COVID.
Misaskim founder and CEO Yanky Meyer noted that the idea that Mr. Friedman was brought from Florida to kever yisroel in Kiryas Joel within 24 hours, during a massive snowstorm, while a chosson and kallah were able to start building their bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel with their siblings present was truly remarkable and a testament to the dedication of everyone involved.
“Whatever it is and whenever it happens, we are all here to help,” said Meyer. “Seeing volunteers coming out in this kind of weather on behalf of people they never even met to fulfill the mitzvos of levayas hames and hachnasas kallah proves what Klal Yisroel is all about. We have no doubt that HaKadosh Baruch Hu was watching over us today, keeping us all safe from harm.”