The passing of Rabbi Joseph Katz z”l (HaRav Yosef ben HaRav Yisrael Alter HaKohen) last week left the greater Five Towns community in mourning. His funeral at Boulevard Riverside Chapels on Thursday, January 19, united the family and friends of the true kohen tzedek. Rabbi Katz exuded kiddush Hashem in all aspects of life. After the Holocaust, a young Katz immigrated to the US from Cuba, where he was known as Jose. He later received a yeshivah education at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, starting at age 11, and picking up Daf Yomi early on. Divrei hesped were delivered by the Bostoner Rebbe, Rabbi Pinchas Weinberger, Rabbi Yaakov Bender, Rabbi Eytan Feiner, Rabbi Yaakov Reisman, and a few sons. Together with his wife, Nechama, he taught shalom, achdus, and chesed, which have thankfully spread throughout the Jewish world. K’vurah took place in Eretz HaChaim Cemetery, Beit Shemesh. He is mourned by his wife Nechama, his sister Leah Censor of Kew Gardens Hills, and his sons Zvi, Uri, Shlomo, Alter, Eli, Pini, and Nosson. Ultimately, no chesed was greater than welcoming Ben Chafetz z”l into his home as a ben bayis.

Upon learning of the p’tirah of his longtime father figure, Ben was determined to give a final farewell at the l’vayah. However, no commercial flights were available, leaving Ben in a quandary. But, to Ben, the answer was quite obvious: He would hire his dear friend and neighbor, seasoned pilot Baruch Taub z”l, to fly him to New York, and so began their journey in Taub’s Beechcraft A36. They attended the heartfelt funeral, participated in the sendoff at JFK, and visited the home of the niftar, where he was once so welcomed, to offer condolences.

Later, the pair attempted their return to Cuyahoga County Airport in Ohio amidst uncertain weather conditions. As was determined in shamayim, at 5:25 p.m. that evening, the aircraft suffered irreversible engine trouble as they took off from Westchester County Airport. Unfortunately, the planned emergency landing was not viable and, following an intensive land and water search and rescue mission under torrential rains, the plane was recovered above ground in a wooded area of a small island in a reservoir in the search parameter around 11 p.m. Misaskim and Chaverim of Rockland worked closely with NTSB and Federal, State, and local authorities, including Congress Member Mike Lawler, to ensure proper kevod ha’mes. Hatzolah Air facilitated the necessary transfers back to Cleveland.

At the Queens Jewish Link, we extend a special note of appreciation to the dedicated QBSP-Shmira, Chaverim of Queens, and Hatzolah volunteers who assisted in the search. The efforts were recognized publicly with a snippet on local media. Both Taub and Chafetz were respected Cleveland askanim. Baruch Taub, who is survived by his wife Shoshana and their five children, was an avid aviator, and the owner of MasterWorks Automotive & Transmission auto repair shop, always dealing with honesty and integrity. Ben Chafetz, who was laid to rest on Friday, owned 121eCommerce, was a tech entrepreneur, 9/11 survivor, passenger on the infamous 2018 El Al flight LY02 that spent Shabbos in Athens, was once featured by Ami Magazine, and was the Yeshiva of Cleveland’s founding President of the Board. Chafetz, originally of Worcester, Massachusetts, traveled the world, often rekindling with the Chabad flames of his youth, returning to India biannually. He leaves behind his wife Smadar and their seven children.

Y’hi zichram baruch.

By Shabsie Saphirstein