Each day, El Al flights lifts hundreds of passengers off an NYC runway towards Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, and each day, a group of Yeshiva students are there to see them off.
On Chanukah, as passengers go through check-in, they are greeted with a warm “Chag Someach!” backed by a bright, colorful Chanukah display of Suganiyot, dreidels and games for children. Some have kindled the Menorah at home, but many have yet to do so.
Those who aren’t flying El Al are attracted by the large posters stationed around the airport, including one at Delta’s check-in, which also furnishes a flight to Israel.
After enjoying the welcomed treats, many proceed to kindle a Menorah of their own, right there, in Terminal 4 of JFK International Airport. While their children sit down and play dreidel, complete some Chanukah themed crafts, or find Judah Maccabee in a crossword puzzle, adults listen to a Yeshiva student expound upon Chanukah’s relevance to our times and lives, “Bayomim haheim bizman hazeh.”
Over the course of Chanukah, thousands will have met Chabad at the Airport, and the response is overwhelming. Passengers are thrilled to encounter the opportunity to celebrate Chanukah, and El AL staff are delighted, too, having long befriended the “boys from Chabad” who contribute tremendously to the ‘soul’ of the Airline throughout the year.
Organizing the group is Yossi Rapp, Director of Chabad of the Airport. Yossi is continuing what his memorable father began back in 1973.
For decades, Rabbi Yekusiel Menachem Rapp OB”M, ran the Chabad presence at the Airport, and specifically, amongst those at El AL, developing warm relations with El-Al executives, and through them, the Israeli security establishments. When the Rebbe wanted to send Matzos to Israel, Rabbi Rapp had it arranged. “Send it through ‘Unzer Yekusiel’”, said the Rebbe. At his father’s Shloshim, Yossi committed himself to continuing his father’s work, and Chabad activities at the Airport has been expanding ever since.