Two Jewish families joined hundreds of others in shock and grief Tuesday as they pressed the French government and airline personnel on the fate of their loved ones aboard Air France Flight 447, which went missing early Monday somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

Among the 216 passengers and 12 crew members who are presumed dead was Serge Anidjar, a French businessman in his 40s who was travelling home after a routine trip to Brazil.

According to Rabbi Michael Sojcher, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Anidjar’s hometown of Boulogne-Billancourt, the man’s wife and three children are understandably distraught.


“They are waiting for news, for information from the government confirming any sign and saying something for sure,” said Sojcher, co-director of Beth Loubavitch Boulogne. “The kids are praying. They still have hope, but it’s a very hard hope.”

Air France administrators and French officials said on Monday that the flight, an Airbus 330 with no adverse incidents in its four-year history, disappeared 30 minutes after flying outside of Brazilian radar coverage as it traversed a line of tropical thunderstorms. Its onboard flight computer sent out a string of messages to company mechanics indicating problems with onboard electrical systems.

At a press conference, French President Nicolas Sarkozy acknowledged the disappearance as the worst aviation accident to occur since 2001.

“It’s a tragic accident,” he said. “The chances of finding survivors are tiny.”

“Air France is extremely distraught, and the whole team of Air France is suffering,” said Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, the chief executive of Air France-KLM. “We would like to say to the relatives of the victims that we are totally with them and will make every effort to help them.”

Tuesday morning, a Brazilian Air Force jet reported spotting debris in the search area.

Sojcher said that the local community in Boulogne was rallying around the Anidjars. Another Jewish passenger was presumed dead, but more information was not immediately forthcoming.

“This family sent their kids to Jewish camps, and they attend the Jewish school in town,” said the rabbi.