Brooklyn – Last Friday’s snowstorm wreaked havoc on hundreds of Shomer Shabbos travelers, according to Misaskim, which stepped in to help passengers on several flights. When El Al’s flight from Tel Aviv to Newark was late in arriving by nearly 8 ½ hours, Misaskim officials made arrangements for a special detail of US Immigration and Customs officials to help speed the passengers through the terminal. The flight, originally scheduled for a pre-dawn landing of 5:00 a.m. did not land until 1:20 in the afternoon, potentially causing many of the passengers to risk not being home in time for Shabbos. Misaskim was able to arrange for a detail of 13 extra agents who were able to process 371 passengers in record time, enabling all of them to reach their destinations before Shabbos. One of the agents even walked around the baggage carousel asking if there was anyone who was a Shabbos observer and needed help.
A family from Brazil suddenly found themselves stranded in Pittsburg where a JFK-bound flight was diverted due to the storm. Flight personnel would not let the family leave the airport and only after the intervention of Misaskim were they permitted to leave. Misaskim contacted Duvy Nadoff who hosted the family for Shabbos until Sunday when they were finally able to connect to their original New York destination. The Nadoffs treated the stranded travelers like family, even giving them a tour of the city on Motzoei Shabbos.
Orthodox passengers on a JFK-bound flight from Los Angeles also endured a harrowing experience as their flight was diverted to Detroit where they were not allowed to deplane. While the plane ultimately landed at 3:20, it had to wait for a gate assignment until 8:00 p.m., well past the start of Shabbos. Misaskim contacted the Far Rockaway-based Achiezer organization who was able to arrange for delivery of the food. Non Jews working for Misaskim delivered a refrigerator as well as pillows blankets. The drivers ran into some difficulties contacting some of the stranded passengers.
Misaskim officials said that the organization had long since established contingency plans for such an eventuality. Its close contacts with law enforcement officials enabled the Jews arriving from Israel to avoid chillul Shabbos. Similarly, its ability to reach out to resources in the community came in handy for some of the other stranded passengers on the snowy Friday.