A Florida rabbi who recently discovered seven tefillin sets in an unclaimed airline baggage store in Alabama was able to successfully restore most of the prayer accessories to their owners with the help of social media.
“HELP! HELP! HELP! We went to a store today in Alabama that sells unclaimed baggage from all over the world. We found Tefilin!!!” Rabbi Uri Pilichowski wrote on Facebook on July 2.
Photos the rabbi posted of the small Scripture-filled boxes, which observant Jews wrap around their arm and place on their forehead during morning prayers, were then shared on the social media site more than 1,000 times.
By the next day six of the seven owners were found, Pilichowski accounced on Facebook. Four of them live in New York, according to New York Daily News.
Pilichowski said that the Unclaimed Baggage Center was selling each pair for $45.
“I was very surprised,” Pilichowski told the Daily News on finding the pairs of tefillin. “We bought them all.”
One of the claimed sets was a family heirloom belonging to David Malka, a former chef for the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Crown Heights. Malka died of pancreatic cancer in October at the age of 58.
Before Malka passed away he gifted his cherished tefillin set to his oldest grandson Abie, who was due to celebrate his bar mitzvah. A few months later the pair went missing during a layover in Charlotte, N.C., as the family was headed to Cancun for Passover.
“At some point it was misplaced,” Yossi Malka, David’s son, said. “It was devastating. I did not want to share it with the rest of my family.”
Yossi Malka returned to Charlotte Airport Lost and Found and searched the center but to no availability.
Yossi Malka and Pilichowski met years ago at a Passover charity camp in Ukraine. When the Florida rabbi found the tefillin, which had a tag inside with the last name “Malka,” he reached out to his old friend, who now lives in Los Angeles.
“I was very, very shocked,” Yossi said about getting call. “I was excited like crazy. It’s just amazing.”