Milwaukee native Henya Federman is on life support following a tragic accident in the Virgin Islands.
Henya and her husband, Rabbi Asher Federman, have been the Chabad Lubavitch Emissaries to the Virgin Islands for the past 17 years. Henya is the daughter of Rabbi Yisroel and Devorah Shmotkin, founders and leaders of Chabad Lubavitch of Wisconsin for more than 50 years.
On Nov. 29, the Federmans were at the waters of St. Thomas when their youngest daughter of 12 children, four-month-old Shternie, fell into the marina. Henya and Asher jumped in the water to save her. Asher surfaced, but Henya was pulled from the water severely injured without a pulse. Shternie’s body was recovered a short while later.
Henya was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Trauma Center in Miami where she remained until Dec. 14 when she was moved to Specialty Hospital of Central Jersey. She remained on life support at Chronicle press time, her parents shuttling between Milwaukee and her changing location.
Upon concluding shiva for their baby sister, Asher and Henya’s children traveled to the Rebbe’s Ohel to pray for their mother’s speedy recovery, according to an update from the Shmotkin-Federman families. The children then continued to Florida to spend a day at their mother’s bedside before going to Detroit to stay with their aunt and uncle.
“The children, under the circumstances, they are functioning,” said Rabbi Shmotkin. “In a way with their faith and their hope and their energy of helping their mother and father.”
Rabbi Shmotkin said the family is still in tremendous shock, but the response from the global Jewish community has been “unbelievable” and “heartwarming.”
Henya’s family has been encouraging the community to perform mitzvahs in Henya’s name. So far, there have been more than 50,000 mitzvahs undertaken on behalf of Henya, including increased Torah study, prayers, good deeds and Hakhel gatherings.
The family is also asking community members to encourage women to light Shabbat candles in Henya’s honor.
For Rabbi Shmotkin, all Jewish people have a direct connection, and these good deeds can make a difference for Henya.
“There is the old philosophy that the oldest Jewish people are like one body, and when one body is weak, the other part of the body is strengthened and helps the weak part,” Rabbi Shmotkin said. “That’s physically and spiritually.”
“We know that all of these actions on our behalf will make a difference in this world and the physical world,” Rabbi Shmotkin said. “That’s all I can say, and the rest is up to G-d.”