Memorial On The Black Sea

by S. Olidort - SOCHI, RUSSIA

October 8, 2002

In a moment of heartrending closure, the kaddish was recited on a ship in the Black Sea in the area where flight Tu-154 went down October 3 of last year, killing all 78 passengers aboard.

150 relatives of those killed in the plane crash marked the one-year anniversary last week, coming from cities across Russia and Israel to Sochi—a resort city on the Black Sea’s north shore—the city nearest the crash site, for a memorial tribute. The event was organized by Chabad representative to Sochi, Rabbi Aryeh-Leib Aidelkopf, in conjunction with Mr. Levi Leviev, president of the Jewish federation of the CIS.

The fated flight had been en-route from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk, Siberia, when an explosion sent the aircraft into the Black Sea, nearly 300 miles off shore. Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, the local Rabbi Aidelkopf, and Rabbi Zaklos, Chabad representative to Novosibirsk, were on hand to make the necessary arrangements for burial of the bodies that were recovered, and stayed in close contact with the families of those killed in the difficult months since.

Itzik Kamri, an Israeli whose daughter was lost in the crash, has been trying to work through his enormous grief. Rabbi Aidelkopf, who has been at his side since the tragic day, has been a source of much needed support. “I felt like he was G-d-sent,” says Kamri who later donated an ark to Sochi’s Jewish synagogue in his daughter’s memory.

At the ceremony, on the port of the Black Sea, Rabbi Zev Wagner represented Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar with a message of hope and solidarity. Sochi’s mayor addressed the community, expressing his condolences to the families of those killed, and thanking the local community for opening their homes and hearts to the bereaved. Several other officials spoke, including Yitzchok Scwartzberg, president of the Jewish community, and representatives from Sibir Airlines.

The crowd then boarded a ship and in the spot where dozens of their loved ones met their untimely deaths one year ago, Rabbi Aidelkopf led kaddish services, and families lit candles in memory of those who had perished. The site was chosen because “family members see this as the true burial site of their loved ones,” says Rabbi Aidelkopf, who saw this event as an opportunity to convey a message of faith, hope and continuity. He talked about that comfort that one finds in a life enriched by Torah and mitzvot, which empowers humanity to perfect the world and hasten an era of peace, prosperity, and life.

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