On Sunday, the worst fears of the worldwide Jewish community were confirmed when the body of Rabbi Reuven Bauman, z”l, was found about a mile from the North Carolina shore by volunteers from the Jewish search-and-rescue group Misaskim. The 35-year-old rabbi, who grew up in Teaneck, had been a teacher at Yeshiva Toras Chaim in Norfolk, Virginia, and was a beloved member of that community. Last Tuesday, Bauman had participated in an outing with 20 teens and acted immediately when he saw one teenager struggling in a rip current and plunged in without thinking twice. The camper was saved; however, the rabbi was pulled outward by the immense current.
News of the missing rabbi prompted an enormous search with help from the Coast Guard and other groups such as the Chaveirim of Rockland and Lakewood, Misaskim of Maryland and Greater Washington, Shomrim from Baltimore, Achiezer and COMMSAR. Additionally, Jewish and non-Jewish volunteers of the Norfolk community either tried spotting the body from the shore or from their boats. Several aircraft were also dispatched on scene with the help of Hatzolah Air and Misaskim. After hours of thorough inspection through the tumultuous waters near False Cape, the Coast Guard reluctantly announced that they had called off their search. Coast Guard Lieutenant Steve Arguelles said that doing so is “always a hard decision, and it’s not one we make lightly.” The hazardous conditions decreased any likelihood of survival and after the first day, the rescue mission morphed into one of recovery.
After the Coast Guard announced that they were calling off the search mission, organizations and other hundreds of volunteers continued their tireless efforts until Friday, stopping for Shabbat and continuing on Sunday. Aryeh Leib Freedman, the president of Misaskim of Maryland, explained that “It was a grueling search for them. At times they felt like giving up—yet there was no way they would actually give up. That’s what being brothers is about.” Similarly, Rabbi Gavriel Rudin, who headed the community development and programming at Bnai Israel Congregation in Norfolk, told Hamodia “we are very inspired by the way Jews all over the world responded with davening. We really feel like we’re part of a larger Jewish family.” Indeed, after receiving word of the missing rabbi, people all over the world had been reciting tehillim and praying for days, first for the miracle of rescuing Bauman and later for a swift return of the body to his grieving family.
On Thursday morning, two days after Rabbi Bauman was lost, the crisis intervention, trauma and bereavement department of Chai Lifeline held a community-wide conference call in which Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox helped people deal with hearing the distressing news. “We encourage anyone in need to avail themselves of Chai Lifeline’s resources during this difficult time,” explained Rabbi Simcha Scholar, CEO of Chai Lifeline. While the search continued, there was a fund started on a website called Charidy aimed at giving financial assistance to the deceased’s wife and five children. Currently, almost $300,000 has been raised by over 3,000 donors.
“He acted heroically,” asserted Coast Guard Lt. Arguelles. Rabbi Bauman’s decision to sacrifice himself for the life of another serves as a testament to the courage that defined his character; his legacy of unwavering kindness will live on forever. His funeral was held on Monday. Information for the Bauman family fundraiser can be found on charidy.com/baumanfamily. The entire family is now sitting shiva at 183 McNamara Road in Spring Valley, through Sunday morning.
By Josh Gindi
Josh Gindi is a rising senior at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston and is interning at The Jewish Link.