When Rabbi Moshe Margaretten of the Tzedek Association heard about four siblings in Afghanistan who needed help, he decided to take action.
Suneeta, an Afghan woman living in the US since 2018, has four children under 18 living alone in Afghanistan. Suneeta’s husband, who worked as an interpreter for the US army, disappeared eight years ago and is presumed to have been taken and killed by the Taliban. After her husband’s disappearance, Suneeta fled with her children to Pakistan but her children were later kidnapped by her brother-in-law who took them back to Afghanistan to her late husband’s family.
When the Taliban gained control over Afghanistan, Suneeta feared that her children would be targeted by the Taliban. She had been trying to bring the children to the US for years but although the US approved the entry of the children as refugees in 2020, she was unable to obtain visas for them.
Sara Lowry, an attorney for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants who has been assisting Suneeta, told CNN: “We’re just terrified that we’re not going to be able to get these children out. If there are other countries that are willing to go get them, if there are journalists still in the city that are willing to be an escort for them, we are appealing … to everyone, everywhere, please help us.”
Margaretten, a resident of Monsey, decided to answer Lowry’s plea, he told Hamodia in an interview on Friday. After several unsuccessful attempts at reaching Lowry, he finally spoke to her on Thursday.
“I asked if she has any contact with the kids,” Margaretten told Hamodia. “She located the kids, and our people on the ground made a connection with them.”
The report explained that Margaretten’s “people on the ground” are a group of former U.S. Delta Force officers and allied Afghans. The group was formed by Margaretten and Moti Kahana, an Israeli-American New Jersey-based businessman who in the past helped bring Syrians wounded in the country’s civil war to Israeli hospitals to receive medical treatment.
Meanwhile, Margaretten made a round of calls to frum ba’alei tzedaka and within 24 hours managed to raise $100,000 for the rescue operation. He then appealed to the office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the White House, who quickly arranged visas for the children.
By Thursday night, the children were aboard a government rescue flight to Qatar and eventually boarded a connecting flight to New York to reunite with their very grateful mother.
“So many people have been desperately calling us, crying for help to get people out of Afghanistan,” says Margaretten. “We want to help everyone we can, but we are doing it order of the highest risk and most vulnerable, which these young kids certainly were.”
The rescue was the second Afghani operation for Margaretten and Kahana. Previously, Margaretten raised $80,000 from his frum contacts and wired it to Kahana, who coordinated the rescue of Afghan women in danger of being targeted by the Taliban, including four members of Afghanistan’s national women’s soccer team and female judges and prosecutors and their families.
Khalida Popal, the former captain of the national women’s soccer team who now lives in Denmark and is coordinating efforts to rescue the team members, thanked Margaretten’s nonprofit, Tzedek Association, on Twitter on Thursday afternoon,
“Thank you @Tzedek_Assoc for your incredible help w/ this life-saving rescue effort, including coordination to the airport and other routes, and political connections,” she wrote. “Together we are saving lives!”
Thank you @Tzedek_Assoc /https://t.co/zQsMSlnD7S your incredible help w/ this life-saving rescue effort, including coordination to the airport and other routes, and political connections. Together we are saving lives! https://t.co/bEkz4Fw1ff
— Khalida Popal (@khalida_popal) August 26, 2021
Margaretten and Kahana aren’t stopping yet. They are continuing efforts to rescue Afghans at risk of being targeted by the Taliban.
“I feel this is my duty, especially as a Jew,” Margaretten says. “Our ancestors went through similar situations so many times, having to flee persecution. Our sages say that if one saves a life, it is as if he has saved the entire world. We are using all our energy, resources and connections to save as many lives as possible.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)