Family, friends pray for missing Lakewood student
The search continues in Israel for Aaron Sofer, the Lakewood religious student who vanished from a wooded area after going for a hike several days ago.
During a news conference on Tuesday, New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith said he's been in contact with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's office and he's been assured "that they are doing everything they can at the U.S. Department of State to assist the Israeli police and the Israeli government in trying to find (Aharon) and find him now."
Smith said the Jerusalem forest where Sofer disappeared is only about half a square mile, and when you consider there has been a major police search of the area, along with at least 1,000 volunteers and nothing has been found, it does raise questions about a possible abduction.
"If it's Hamas, it's extremely serious because they are notorious for their cruelty and brutality, so there is a concern," Smith said. "They are not committed to peace in any way shape or form, they're committed to annihilation of the Jewish state and Jewish people."
He also said, "Hamas is a horrific terrorist organization, the Egyptians get it, many other countries in the Middle East, the moderate Muslims get it just how bad this organization is. If you read the Hamas charter, it couldn't be clearer that they seek the complete annihilation of Israel and Jews - it's throughout their charter."
During the news conference, Rabbi Yisroel Serebrowski told the overflow crowd "in Yiddish we have a saying, when it hurts, we scream, and today it hurts. It hurts when one of our own, when a nice boy goes missing. Aaaron is a son, a brother, a grandson, a friend to so many people, imagine for a moment if Aaaron was your son."
The rabbi said Sofer's parents have been thrust into the middle of a terrible tragedy, a nightmare, wondering "where is my child? Is he perhaps lying somewhere unconscious, in pain, was he abducted, is he being tortured, the possibilities are endless. Aaron could be us, every single one of us."
The missing student's brother, Yaakov Sofer, thanked everyone taking part in search, saying he just wants his brother to be found.
"Just please bring back our brother," he said. "I'm talking on behalf of the whole family that's in America, he's my brother right over me, I just have one message, just please bring back my brother."
Sofer's brother-in-law, Yehuda Wicentowsky, had a message for Aaron.
"We all care and we're praying for him and we'd love to have him back," he said. "And we hope to see him back in Jerusalem learning and hopefully everybody else will continue with their prayers."
Friends of Sofer have started a Facebook page which states that “Our dear friend…went missing without a trace on Friday, 22 August 2014.” The page, which has just over 115 “likes,” also encourages people to spread the word about the Lakewood man’s disappearance. A donation drive has also been started to assist the family and offer a reward for information leading to Sofer’s recovery.