In JFK Airport’s Terminal 4 on a bright Thursday afternoon hundreds assembled in a cordoned off area for a ceremony attended by prominent officials from the Airport’s administration and El-Al Airlines.
Attendees were family, friends and supporters who gathered in tribute of Rabbi Yekusiel Menachem Rapp, OB”M – the legendary Mashgiach of 770 and Shliach to the Airport and El-Al for decades – to participate in a Chanukas Habayis of Chabad of the Airport that will continue his life’s work, and to launch a Matchathon campaign until his Yohrtzait. This on the day his children mark the completion of the eleven months of Kaddish.
The Chanukas Habayis celebrated the tremendous success and expansion of Chabad of the Airport over the past year, but the event’s highlight was the unveiling of a masterpiece: a finely crafted, custom-designed Mivtzoim station that will lend permanence and an air of professionalism to the continually expanding activities at the Airport. The station was generously sponsored by the children of the Winter family in meritorious memory of their mother, Mrs. Chana winter, OB”M.
The unveiling brought to fruition a final request of Rabbi Rapp. As his son Yossi soon revealed, this was a request he received from his father just hours before the accident.
Rabbi Mendel Shagalov emceed the hour-long event, having always considered Rabbi Rapp a friend, and himself having volunteered in Airport outreach in his youth. Featured speakers included President and CEO of Terminal 4, Mr. Gert-Jan de Graaff, followed by an emotional El-Al Manager Gil Rudimaski, who had garnered a personal friendship with “Rabbi Kutti”, as he fondly called him, over the years.
Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, Chaplain to the Port Authority and Shliach at Rutgers NJ, thanked the Port Authority officials and security personnel for their support, including Inspector John Roland, Captain Belluci, US Custom’s Officer Emanual Almag, TSA Manager John Sheeron and Chaplain Rabbi Melnicke. R’ Carlebach also conveyed the blessing of senior Rav Rabbi Yaakov Shwei on behalf of the Crown Heights Beis Din.
Rabbi Ari Korenblat, the airport’s Jewish chaplain, congratulated Chabad on the event, and compared the new station to the Mizbeach in the Beis Hamikdosh about which it says “Zeh Hashulchan Asher Lifnei Hashem” — This is the table which is before Hashem.
R. Yossi Rapp, director of Chabad of the Airport, delivered a moving description of his father’s request from him hours before his tragic passing — to see to it that the new station is installed and ready to service the many Jewish travelers.
In a show of gratitude and appreciation for their unyielding support, R’ Yossi Rapp presented awards to President and CEO Mr. Gert-Jan de Graaf, VP of operations Susana Chuna, El-Al Manager Eli Shitrit, and airport Chaplain Rabbi Ari Korenblat.
All in all, between the personal encounters, extolling the deep bond and decades-long partnership between El-Al and Chabad, and the wishes of many more years of continued solidarity with Chabad’s, and El-Al and the Airport’s, mission, we can safely assume that the needs of passengers, both spiritual and physical, will be well cared for.
Following the ceremony, attendees were invited to enjoy a delightful buffet of fruit, sushi, and pastries, generously sponsored by the finest local establishments: Mr. Greens, Sushi Spot, and Wholesome Bagels, respectively.
To participate in the Matchathon campaign to support Chabad of the Airport’s ongoing activities, click here.