There was a heightened sense of concern in the Jewish community of Queens this past Tuesday evening, August 3, when a Queens Borough Safety Patrol–Shmira flier was quickly making its rounds on local chats and social media groups for a missing elderly woman, Bella Abramova.

Shmira coordinators skillfully arranged for nearly ten pairs of members to thoroughly comb the broader Rego Park area for the frail community matriarch. “Our adept members took on their task efficiently and thoroughly,” said Hiski Meirov, a Shmira coordinator. “For five continuous hours, Shmira volunteers scoured local city parks, playgrounds, synagogues, and open areas, looking for the beloved neighborhood grandmother. The family was grateful for every effort expended.” As a member of one of these search teams, I can attest to the depth of detail and diligence of the members involved, who exhausted every bit of strength to achieve success. The usage of patrol cars, labeled vests, and radio technology proved vital at every turn.

It was believed that Mrs. Abramova could be on a bench in the densely packed neighborhood dotted with countless high-rise apartment buildings and detached houses. The vast commercial zones of Rego Park were also checked, as the outdoor dining areas were deemed a possible haven for the woman who would often be found immersed in a book.

Last seen at her complex, The Drake, at 99th Street and 62nd Drive, early on Tuesday morning, there was fear that Bella had not eaten properly, if at all, and could easily fall victim to outdoor conditions. Hospitals and medical facilities had been contacted; it appeared that Bella had vanished without a trace. A few hours into the search, with an obvious urgency in the air, Chaverim of Queens joined as well, with a search party in a well-lit vehicle; soon after, other Chaverim crews were dispatched, too. Throughout the evening, New York Police Department officers based out of the 112th precinct also took on a leading role searching and interacting with the family.

As the night went on, hope was dwindling for a midnight miracle, but Shmira coordinators remained confident and optimistic and opted to redistribute its crew to specific areas as an added effort to boost members’ morale.

“Neighbors and passersby were very appreciative of the search attempts underway and were a continued source of encouragement for our members. It was a beautiful sight to behold,” added Meirov.

Mere minutes after midnight struck, Avishai Shachar, a Chaverim volunteer who had joined the search less than an hour prior, located Mrs. Abramova on a bench near her home. True to form, all the volunteers involved in the endeavor jumped to assist. Bella, who always strives to better herself and lives her life proudly in the ways of Hashem, was found reading the famed Chofetz Chaim: A Lesson A Day, published by ArtScroll.

“Our volunteers responded swiftly to assist and, working together, were able to locate the missing,” said Avi Cyperstein, co-founder of Chaverim of Queens. “Thank you to Hatzolah of Queens and Great Neck, and the NYPD, who responded, as well. This was a great example of three different community organizations all working in unison to achieve a rewarding outcome.

To ensure the maximum health and safety precautions for the missing woman, Cyperstein alerted Hatzolah to ascertain her well-being. “We are proud of all the volunteers and our neighboring organizations who stepped up in the time of peril,” said Cyperstein.

 By Shabsie Saphirstein