Travelers in JFK Airport — including many en route to, or returning from, Israel — expected that they’d miss out on the joyful Purim spirit while away from their families and communities. When they entered New York’s International Airport, however, they were in for a welcomed surprise.
Greeting them at Terminal 4 were a group of Chabad students enthusiastic about bringing the holiday’s festivities to all Jewish people without exception, which includes those who are about to be airborne.
For Purim, hundreds of Mishloach Manos were distributed, Megillah readings attracted dozens, and many more donned Tefillin, all of them thankful for the opportunity afforded them even in the unlikeliest of places.
Afterwards, El-Al and Airport staff gathered for a festive Purim party in their office, where R’ Yossi Rapp communicated the holiday messages of Jewish unity and survival against all odds, until the immediate final redemption
The students have become somewhat of a fixture at the terminal, which hosts El-Al’s Check-in counter that flies twice daily to Israel, and where most Jewish flyers can be found.
Leading the group is Rabbi Yossi Rapp, Director of Chabad of the Airport. Yossi is continuing what his legendary father began back in 1973.
For decades, Rabbi Yekusiel Menachem Rapp, OB”M, ran the Chabad presence at the Airport, and specifically, amongst those at El AL, developing warm relations with El-Al executives, and through them, the Israeli security establishments. When the Rebbe wanted to send Matzos to Israel, Rabbi Rapp had it arranged. “Send it through ‘Unzer Yekusiel’”, said the Rebbe. At his father’s Shloshim, Yossi committed himself to continuing his father’s work, and Chabad’s activities at the Airport has been expanding ever since.
Yossi leads the Mivtzoim at the airport all year round, laying Tefillin with hundreds of passengers, and connecting them with Chabad in their respective locations. “Many are Israelis, but people from all over go to tour Israel, and some don’t realize they have a Chabad near their own homes,” says Yossi.
Preparations are no simple task. Coordinating with the airport’s security and management apparatus, as well as the Airline to ensure flyers have their Jewish needs cared for, without a hitch.
Chabad at the Airport will continue to actively engage and service every Jew in the Airport, until the ultimate Geulah with Moshiach Tzidkeinu, may it be speedily in our days.
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