As friends, admirers, and students of Rabbi Bauman and his family, we have all experienced a very difficult week.
My goal with these words is to clarify some facts and perhaps answer some questions.
As you know, Rabbi Bauman was caught in a riptide in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach in the early afternoon on Tuesday. The force of the water was so strong that nobody present was able to save him. The rescue crews were nearby and on the scene immediately.
It is true that Rabbi Bauman entered the water to rescue children in distress. Those children were rescued by a heroic bystander and are safe. The nature of the riptide was such that the bystander either did not see or could not reach Rabbi Bauman. We do not know the identity of the bystander.
The Coast Guard immediately set up a command center to coordinate local, state, and federal assets including military. Our area is home to the world’s largest Naval Base and some of the best trained and equipped Search and rescue teams in the world. I was personally on the scene with the command center all afternoon and they went above and beyond the call of duty. My wife, Rebbetzin Chamie, was with his wife, Tzivia who was obviously in distress.
We were immediately in touch with countless Chesed organizations. Achiezer was on the scene quickly and worked with the Coast Guard command to involve the various Hatzalah, Chaveirim, Misaskim and other organizations with experience in water search and rescue. It was and remains a true Kiddush HaShem.
Chai Lifeline immediately sent a crisis expert to speak with the family, the children who were present, their parents, and the community at large. They have been working in concert with myself, the Jewish Family Services, and several highly qualified local professionals.
At this point the search continues. As ma’aminim (believers) we remain hopeful for a miracle, a neis. The Coast Guard Command Center stretched their typical time for Search and Rescue Operations beyond what is typical and well into yesterday morning. They have, at this point, begun the process of phasing out several of their assets and many of those assets are being replaced by skilled and trained volunteers and volunteer organizations.
We have received encouragement and blessings for strength from the Gedolei Haposkim and some of the holiest people in our generation. It is our prayer that Rabbi Bauman will be found over the next few days at which point we will proceed as appropriate. Despite reports to the contrary, the family has not begun to sit Shiva. We are still searching for Rabbi Bauman and davening that he will be found. It goes without saying that our Torah and Jewish Law have contingencies for every eventuality.
How can you help?
You can daven. The hundreds of thousands of tefillos (prayers) from all of Klal Yisrael have given our community, the family, and our children unnatural strength during this difficult time.
You can volunteer. The contact person for volunteer efforts is Mr. Blau at 347-986-9482. Volunteering includes going out in boats, walking along the shoreline and supporting others as they search. After careful consideration and discussion we have determined that we will not have Jewish volunteers searching over Shabbos.
You can take care of yourselves, your children and each other. We are all hurting and we all need to be talking to someone to help us process this trauma. It can be a friend or a professional, but please recognize this need.
This is not a fundraising letter, but many people have asked where they can send funds. A fund has been set up and is currently managed and endorsed by myself and Rabbi Teichman, Shlita of Monsey. All monies in the fund will go directly to the needs of the family during this difficult time.
You can avoid rumors. Misinformation about possible rescues, decisions, and storylines are not helpful and can cause great pain. Even true information and decisions need to be communicated in a responsible fashion. We are dealing with a family and community in distress.
You can continue to be who you are. Klal Yisroel – the Jewish nation – is amazing and these past few days have brought it out. We are all one, and we all feel each others pain. We act on that pain and we never forget to turn our minds and hearts to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
May these remarkable aspects of our community and Klal Yisroel be a zechus for Rabbi Bauman and for all of us until the day that HaShem wipes away all of our tears.
On behalf of the family and the community, thank you.
Rabbi Sender Haber
B’nai Israel Congregation