Chabad of the Airport was established over 40 years ago by Rabbi Yekutiel (Kuti) Rapp OBM.
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. After his tragic passing his son Yossi has taken charge, and Chabad activities at the Airport have been expanding ever since.
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. Organizing the group is Yossi Rapp, Director of Chabad of the Airport. Yossi is continuing what his memorable father began back in 1973.
All year round, Yossi leads the Mivtzoim at the airport, donning Tefillin with hundreds of passengers, and connecting them with Chabad in their respective locations. “Many are Israelis, but people from all over go to tour Israel, and some don’t realize they have a Chabad near their own homes” says Yossi.
During Jewish holiday season, the activities reach their peak. On Chanukah, for instance, as passengers go through check-in, they are greeted with a warm “Chag Same’ach!” 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. 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.
This unique holiday spirit appears repeatedly throughout the year during Sukkos, Purim, and pre-Pesach season.