As we updated last night, Yossi Gerson, who had been missing for several days, has Baruch Hashem returned and been reunited with his family. The achdus and ahavas yisroel our community has witnessed was remarkable and unforgettable.
Yossi’s parents, Wendy and Alan Gerson, asked to share the following message:
Dear Family, Friends, Neighbors, and Complete Strangers Who Are Now Our Friends, AMUSH
Over the course of these harrowing days, thousands of people have shared our plight in the most personal way. Now that this episode has been so swiftly and miraculously resolved, we’d like to share some of the background behind the story.
One of Yossi’s most passionately held ideals is Achdus. It’s a concept that he lives; a concept that he’s discussed with us countless times, particularly over recent weeks.
These past few months have been difficult for Yossi on a personal level. The challenging life circumstances he’d been facing, coupled with the pain that he was exposed to in the lives of others, led to an emotional crisis. He set out of the house on Shmini Atzeres determined to visit and help a homeless friend who was alone for Yom Tov. This is the kind of caring that characterizes Yossi. We sent him off with food, and with hugs, and with the expectation that he would be home by Wednesday morning.
Tuesday night, when Yossi’s homeless friend called asking for him, we realized that something was very wrong. Yossi was lost and in potential grave danger. If he was ok, he would certainly have come home or called us. We were frightened and worried. With the help of Rabbi Boruch Ber Bender, we contacted the police and our friends in the community for help.
By Wednesday night, Yossi’s disappearance was made public. Hundreds of people combed the neighborhood for clues. On Thursday night, over 1,000 people came to search: Yossi’s Rebbeim and classmates, my own former students and their parents, relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances, and total strangers. The diversity was astounding; the unity was overwhelming. They were out until 5:00 AM, with no results.
When dear friends told us about the Motzaei Shabbos Tehillim gathering that they planned to arrange at Yeshiva Darchei Torah on Yossi’s behalf, we were sure that nobody would come. After all, how could we expect anyone to extend themselves night after night, especially after Thursday’s incredible showing?
1200 people showed up at Darchei on Motzaei Shabbos. The building was filled to capacity, and still more people crowded together outside. As we listened in to the Tehillim from our home phone, friends sent us pictures of the scene: Jews of every stripe and Shul affiliation, praying together with fervor. Women in pants stood alongside women in Sheitels; Young Israel rabbis next to Agudah rabbis.
Forty minutes after the Tehillim gathering, incredibly, Yossi walked through the door, alive. He was lost and disoriented all this time, and was in dire need of help. Amazingly, in Manhattan, just as we were all saying Tehillim, an unknown man in a wheelchair put Yossi in a cab and sent him home. Chasdei Hashem!!
We share these thoughts at about 12:30 AM, only a couple of hours after Yossi’s return. We feel like we have to say something – we have to do something – right now. We have no words in our vocabulary to express the depth of gratitude that we have to the entire community, to the thousands of friends and community members who gave their time and their hearts. We wish we could hug every single person who went searching, who said Tehillim, who just texted us to let me know that they were concerned. Each and every one of you treated this crisis like your own, and our family is completely overcome with the depth of your caring.
To the thousand plus volunteers who tirelessly searched for Yossi: His safe return is in your merit. Those hours of upheaval were critical ones, and we have no doubt that your selfless determination and Mesiras Nefesh played a crucial role in keeping him safe. The police detective expressed admiration and amazement for our community. In his 18 years in the missing persons unit he has never seen anything remotely resembling the outpouring of support and help that was given us.
To the community organizations, leaders and elected officials who stood at our side during these trying times: Specifically to Achiezer and Rabbi Boruch Ber Bender we have no words; Shomrim; Hatzalah; the Nassau County Police Department; Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky; Councilman Bruce Blakeman and his assistant Anthony; Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder; and of course HaRav Mordechai Stern; ‘heartfelt appreciation’ is a pale shadow of the emotion that we feel.
Most of all, to the Ribono Shel Olam, who answered our Tefillos in the most obvious, astounding way, just 40 minutes after they were offered. Yossi had literally began his journey home minutes after we all united together in Tefillah. For us, the most incredible part of this entire episode is the remarkable Hashgacha in the fact that Yossi, a regular guy who was never on medication or ‘at risk’ in any way, merited a Yeshua just when he needed it, thanks to the Achdus that he always strives to promote.
Ashreichem Yisrael. Truly, there is no nation like ours – one nation, with one heart – exactly how Yossi wants us to be.
The biggest Zechus for us all would be to have this incredible sense of Achdus continue on in our community and in all of Klal Yisroel!
May we share in many Simchos together !
Wendy and Alan Gerson