Amid a week of headlines dominated by international terrorism, a small act of kindness by a few Jews in the great state of Montana won broad attention in Jewish and community media. After hearing of an El Al flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in Billings, Montana, several members of the state’s small Jewish community snapped into action to bring kosher food and other necessities to help those who found themselves unexpectedly stranded in Big Sky Country.
Early Sunday morning, a Boeing 777 from Tel Aviv bound for Los Angeles began experiencing engine trouble and was grounded in the Billings Logan International Airport for over 13 hours. Aside from the standard inconvenience of such an unplanned and extended layover, there was the additional challenge of finding kosher food in the Montana airport.
Rabbi Yochanan Chayut, the official Rabbi of El Al, contacted Rabbi Chaim Bruk, the Chabad emissary in Bozeman, Montana, and asked if he could do anything to help.
“I was on the way to Minneapolis at the time, but I called my wife and told her the situation. She loaded up the car with whatever we had and drove to Billings,” Rabbi Bruk told Hamodia. “We have seven freezers and had just gotten a kosher food order. Now I will have to make a new one.”
The Billings Gazette reported that some members of the local Jewish community also heard news of the stranded flight and brought some basic staples like fruit and cereal, as well as diapers and some pharmaceuticals.
After receiving her husband’s call, Rebbetzin Chava Bruk packed her three children, ages six, five, and two, into the family car together with the provisions and made the two-hour drive from Bozeman to Billings.
“Obviously, it was on pretty short notice, so I couldn’t cook anything, but we brought whatever was ready — cakes, bagels, cold cuts, whatever was available,” she told Hamodia. “The kids were very good sports and were happy to be part of the mitzvah.”
After reaching the airport, the Bruks were given special escort to the gate where the passengers were. The food had to be loaded into bins and passed through security.
“They [the airport staff] were expecting us and handled it very well. You can imagine that Montana never had anything like this,” said Rebbetzin Bruk. “The people who were stuck there were very appreciative, happy that someone cared about them and came.”
Mr. Hillel Fuld of Beit Shemesh, who was one of the stranded passengers, told Chabad.org, “She showed up and instantly put a smile on hundreds of faces. It was a tremendous kiddush Hashem — amazing and inspiring!”
Rebbetzin Bruk was dismissive of the attention that the story has garnered, saying that she was just “in the right place at the right time,” adding, “I think people are just happy to have a nice story to talk about.”