The Miracles and the Redemption — The Escape of Dovid Lax

Dovid Lax makes a miraculous escape from Jersey City Kosher Supermarket on Tuesday, December 10, 2019. (Screencap security camera)

The day began like so many others for Dovid Lax, a resident of Jersey City and local business owner who was part of the fledgling community of the Greenville neighborhood. As he did almost every day, Dovid approached the fresh salad bar which Mrs. Leah Mindel Ferencz Hy’d, the proprietress the Jersey City Kosher Supermarket, prepared each morning, and began choosing his lunch for the day. He often stopped in at the grocery store run by Mr. and Mrs. Ferencz to get a quick meal while he attended to his business nearby. “I usually spoke to Mr. Ferencz on a daily basis, and my wife was friendly with Mrs. Ferencz, and they spoke often as well.”

Can you describe how the events unfolded?

“The first gunshots startled me,” Dovid told Hamodia. “I had heard the sounds of a handgun in the past, but I was not accustomed to the sounds of a high-powered rifle, and it took me a few seconds to realize what was happening. I heard the others in the store scream, and I saw three bullet holes in the bottom of the front door, and then I figured out was going on.”

“When the first gunman burst in, I was standing by the salad bar and he did not see me, so I ducked behind it. Three seconds later he passed me, and I stood up and came face to face with the second shooter, who was a woman.

“The doors to the street opened inward, and she pivoted towards me pointing the long rifle she was carrying directly at me. In an instant, I charged towards her and was able to redirect her arm, and I flew out the door. I had the impression that someone was shooting in my direction after I exited the store but I was unsure at the time. Viewing the video later confirmed that indeed they did shoot at me as I ran away.”

What did you do after you left the store?

“I crossed the street as fast as I could, and after a few hundred feet, I saw a young cheder yingel walking nearby, and I took him with me to my house. I headed home, and I called 911 on the way. When I arrived at my house, I immediately called his parents to let them know that he was safe, and I called the academic office of the yeshiva too, so they should not worry where he was. He stayed in my house with me and my family for the next few hours. I felt it was important for him to speak about what occurred, and he spoke a lot for the next few hours. I also gave him something to eat.”

How did you spend the afternoon while the shooting was ongoing?

“I felt it was important to remain home with my wife, since we did not know who the perpetrators were, we were afraid that there might be accomplices in the area. We all laid down on the floor and stayed away from the windows, as we waited it out for the next few hours.

“I sent out a message through our JC group that there was an active shooter by the grocery and beis medrash, and the area must be avoided, and word about the attack spread quickly.

“The police called me in the middle of the afternoon to question me, but I was too shaken up at the time to speak with them. Because the situation was so fluid, I was actually unsure if the callers were the police or part of the gang, so I declined to speak with them at the time. Later, at night, they picked me up and I did give a statement to the FBI and the homicide officers of the local police.”

How did you handle visiting the families of the victims by the shivah?

“It was very emotional, of course. I held Mr. Ferencz’s hands for a few minutes. We cried together and then we spoke for a few minutes, encouraging each other that we have to continue with our lives.”

Where do you go from here?

“Life has to go on, so I am trying to do whatever I was doing until now. Hashem gave me back my life to continue doing good things as I did before.

“I want to let people know that the neighbors have been there for us, both emotionally and by helping us with whatever they can supply. As an example, they set aside part of the Community Center for us to store all the food which was coming in for Shabbos, since we do not have use of the grocery store at this time.

“The community is in need of support since we must re-establish some of the facilities we need to continue with our kehillah. People have been generous, and we appreciate what they have done for us in the past and what they will do for us in the future.