Chabad Facilitates Father-Son Reunion

by Fay Kranz Greene - LOS ANGELES, CA

December 2, 2003

“The first time I met Ari, was at a fundraiser in our shul” says Rabbi Sholom Ber Rodal, director of Chabad of Mount Olympus in Los Angeles. “He was a cousin of our friend and Chabad supporter Gary Lustgarten, who had brought him along as a volunteer. Ari told me that he was going off to Berkley to study and I wished him well.”

About a month later, Rodal received a shocking telephone call from Lustgarten. Ari had fallen off a five-story dormitory balcony and was in a coma, in critical condition, with little chance of survival.

Rodal immediately arranged for another Chabad emissary in the Berkley area to visit the boy and amazingly, miraculously, Ari not only survived, but awoke from his coma and after a few months of treatment, was transferred to a rehab in the Los Angeles area.

Rabbi Rodal spent time with the boy, bringing him Jewish books and talking to him about Judaism. Rodal learned that Ari’s parents had divorced when he was two and his father was given custody of the boy. When he was 10 years old, his father decided to move to Asia, the exact location being tentative, to pursue a new business. Ari was upset about the move and adamantly refused to go. His father reluctantly left him with his grandparents.

Ari remained estranged from his father and would not even take his telephone calls. After several tries, his father stopped calling altogether and it had been almost ten years since Ari had seen or spoken to him.

After Ari was discharged from the rehab, he and his grandmother would often join Rabbi Rodal and his family for Shabbat. During one Friday night conversation, Rodal suggested that perhaps the time had come for Ari to reconnect with his father.

To the rabbi’s surprise, both Ari and his grandmother were receptive. However, locating the father would not be easy, since the only information they had was "somewhere in Asia" and suspected Thailand or Japan.

Rabbi Rodal was undaunted. He had a plan. Immediately after Shabbat, he sent off an e-mail message to a shluchim (Lubavitch emissaries) website. “Does anyone know a Jerry Sugar in Asia?”

The reply was quick in coming. Rabbi Yoseph C. Kantor, the Chabad shliach in Bankgok, responded. He not only knew the man, he was a member of his synagogue. When Jerry Sugar heard that Ari wanted to get in touch with him after all these years, he was ecstatic. He had often wanted to initiate contact, but was afraid of further traumatizing his son.

He also wanted to speak to Rabbi Rodal first. “Rabbi, you don’t know what you’ve done for me” he told Rodal emotionally. “I can’t believe this is happening to me this late in my life and if Ari is ready -- so am I.”

The father and son began to connect, tentatively at first, by e mail. They progressed to telephone calls and a few months ago were finally reunited in an emotional meeting in Los Angeles. A new chapter had begun in the lives of Jerry and Ari Sugar.

Rabbi Rodal attributes this reunion to the vision of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, “who sent emissaries to the four corners of the globe for no other purpose than to help a fellow Jew.”

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