It is no secret that as Russia’s capital city, Moscow is home to four airports which operate thousands of flights, including many transit flights. Naturally, this means dealing with stranded passengers for a variety of reasons, many of them due to delays or missed subsequent flights. Beyond the nerves and monetary loss this may cause for the average traveler, for Jewish travelers – especially those who are meticulous with kosher food and davening in a minyan, – flight disruptions can bring a whole new level of unnecessary misery, especially flights before Shabbos or Jewish holidays.
Moscow’s central Chabad House and the gabbais of the Marina Roscha shul, along with Rabbi Elimelech Weisberg, are directly in touch with Aeroflot’s offices in the United States on a regular basis. They devotedly answer all calls that come in to the hotline at the Shaarey Tzedek Chesed Center, reassuring and calming the passengers and their families. They then arrange for them to be hosted for all Shabbos and Yom Tov meals with the Chabad Shluchim’s families. The warm hospitality of these uplifting Shabbosim has become world famous thanks to the hundreds of Jews who have enjoyed it when passing through Moscow.
But not every situation allows for the stranded passengers to leave the airport and arrive in Marina Roscha before Shabbos. For example, during the very short winter Fridays when Shabbos comes in very early. Also, American citizens who do not have a valid Russian visa cannot enter Russia. For such situations and more, an important meeting took place this week between the CEO of Russia’s largest airline, Mr. Villin Halichenko, and the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berel Lazar. Aeroflot’s Executive Director heard from Rabbi Lazar about the special needs of religious Jews, and the challenges they face when stranded in Moscow.
On his part, Mr. Halichenko promised to be alert and attentive to any calls for assistance from the Jewish community and to do all that he can to assist them and increase cooperation with the Jewish community. This is in addition to approximately thirty thousand (!) kosher meals that the company supplies today to passengers requesting kosher food under the strict supervision of Russia’s Chief Rabbinate.
In the Jewish community, the Jewish public flying through Moscow is urged to prefer flights between Sundays and Thursday mornings, in order to avoid cases of delay that cause much unnecessary grief and monetary loss.