NEW YORK (VINnews/Sandy Eller) – Less than a day after the tragic plane crash that took their lives, two Cleveland residents are being recalled as role models of the local Jewish community who lived to help others.
The Jewish community at large was stunned by the news that a small plane had gone missing on January 19th near Westchester Airport after pilot Boruch Taub reported engine trouble less than half an hour after taking off from JFK Airport, as previously reported on VIN News.
Entrepreneur Ben Chafetz, the only passenger on the plane, inadvertently sent a series of WhatsApp message meant for his wife to the Bais Avrohom night seder group chat in Cleveland saying that the plane had lost its engines and asking for the community to say Tehillim for their safe return.
A lifelong Cleveland resident, Taub was the father of five children. The owner of MasterWorks Automotive, Taub studied mechanical engineering at Cleveland State University and he turned a local garage and converted it into a thriving business.
Cleveland resident Chaikel Kaufman remembered Taub as being extremely good hearted, and with his garage located between two synagogues, he would often let community members park their cars in his lot when spots were unavailable.
“The last time I saw him, I was going out to eat with my wife and he was there as well,” Kaufman told VIN News. “We had just chipped our windshield and I asked him about it and he was so nice, giving us all the information we needed, refusing any compliments by telling me he was just waiting for his food and was happy to be able to help.”
A comment on the Dans Deals website (https://bit.ly/3D2pmH4) from one of Taub’s former high school classmates said simply “If you looked up ‘Mench’ in [the] dictionary you would so a picture of him. He was the best of us.”
The epitome of honesty and someone who discreetly gave generously to charitable causes, Taub was known for helping community members keep their aging cars going as long as possible.
Customers whose cars weren’t ready on time were given loaner cars and one Cleveland resident who asked to remain anonymous recalled how Taub would make sure to give her a minivan to use if he knew that she needed to drive a carpool saying, “He was such a mentsh every single time I went in there.”
She described the two men, who were both in their forties, as “amazing individuals. Boruch was the nicest guy you would ever come in contact with and Ben was larger than life.”
Another Clevelander recalled Chafetz, a father of seven, as someone who was well known for finding opportunities to help other. He hired many young people within the community, often giving those leaving kollel their first position in the work force.
“Ben was everywhere,” recalled Kaufman. “Almost every picture I am seeing people posting of him is at a fundraising event and he gave to all of them.”
Kaufman noted that while the entrepreneur was successful, his charitable contributions were disproportionately large, a phenomenon he saw for himself at an Adopt a Kollel fundraiser in Cleveland last week. After watching a video at the event, Chafetz pulled out his credit card and told Kaufman how much he wanted to donate, but the amount exceeded the donations cap that had been set by the rabbi to ensure that everyone felt that they were an equal part of the equation.
“He was very upset because he wanted to give more and he went to the rabbi and said ‘What kind of business is this – I want to give more!’” said Kaufman. “He was involved in every cause and his generosity was incredible, because he just gave and gave. No one really knows everything he did, but he did a lot.”
Members of the Chafetz family who live in New York reached out to Misaskim on Thursday evening after the plane went missing, and Chaverim of Rockland coordinator and Misaskim member Yossi Margaretten contacted the Westchester Police Department with the help of the Ramapo Police Department.
Gaining access to the area where the plane had last been tracked proved to be difficult, a reality compounded by the heavy rains that made drone and helicopter searches an unlikely prospect. While law enforcement was prepared to call off the search until morning, Margaretten asked the many agencies involved to continue, working off a faint ping of one of the two men’s cell phones.
“At first they thought that the plane had gone down in Rye Lake and that was why they couldn’t see it, but they found the wreckage of the plane, which hit the trees before coming all the way down,” said Margaretten.
The wreckage was found in an area owned by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, whose Kensico Reservoir also includes an Eastern Rye Lake portion and surrounding acreage.
Margaretten credited the agencies he worked with at the crash site, including the Westchester County Police, the New York State Police, the New York City DEP and the National Transportation Safety Board, for their incredible sensitivity and willingness to accommodate religious needs at the crash site.
“Westchester County Executive George Latimer called me personally and asked me if there was anything I needed and told me that the medical examiner would be standing by,” said Margaretten. “The minute they brought them out, the medical examiner was waiting for us.”
Chafetz and Taub were flown by Hatzolah Air to Cleveland. Chafetz’s funeral will be held at 2 PM at Berkowitz-Kumin-Bokat Memorial Chapel in Cleveland Heights, and will be livestreamed at www.bit.ly/3iVVgOv. Arrangements for the Taub funeral are expected to be announced shortly.