US Virgin Islands: Chabad woman in serious condition after trying to save baby

Henya Federman and her family were out by the docks on the US Virgin Islands when their 4-month-old baby fell out of her arms and into the water.

 MEDICAL STAFF operating intensive care equipment (illustration) (photo credit: PXFUEL)
MEDICAL STAFF operating intensive care equipment (illustration)
(photo credit: PXFUEL)

A Jewish mother is currently fighting for her life after she attempted to save her baby from drowning in the US Virgin Islands on Wednesday.

Henya Federman and her family were sent by Chabad to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands 17 years ago to build the Chabad Lubavitch of the Virgin Islands, according to Chabad.org. They were out by the docks when their youngest, a 4-month-old baby Shertna Sarah, fell out of Henya's arms and into the water near the Oasis Cove Marina.

"Every person that I've been in contact with in the last couple of days can't stop talking about Henya being the most beautiful person, always smiling, always kind, always giving from herself to others. Never thinking about herself."

Dvorkie Shmotkin, Henya's sister-in-law

Both Henya and her husband, Rabbi Asher, jumped into the water to try and save her. Rabbi Asher was able to get out, but Henya had to be pulled out, unconscious, and resuscitated. She has been put on life support and is currently fighting for her life.

 Empty beds in the intensive care unit at the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on October 14, 2021. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Empty beds in the intensive care unit at the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on October 14, 2021. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

How did Henya end up on the US Virgin Islands?

Henya is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin where the local Chabad school Bader Hillel Academy gathered the students together on Friday morning and davened for her health and for her family.

"Every person that I've been in contact with in the last couple of days can't stop talking about Henya being the most beautiful person, always smiling, always kind, always giving from herself to others. Never thinking about herself," Henya's sister-in-law, Dvorkie Shmotkin, told local Milwaukee news, TMJ4.

TMJ4 showed video footage of a student at Bader Hillel Academy handing out pennies to other students for them to perform the mitzvah of tzedakah in Henya's name.

"We believe very strongly, we say, 'think good and it should be good.' And it will be good," Shmotkin told TMJ4. "That's what we're thinking right now."

"People are good people," she continued. "It makes us feel that the world is a really good world and people are good and they want to do good. And we see it now, unfortunately in this time and we hope that we'll see it again."

"To refer to the Federman's as a 'family in crisis' is an understatement," a close family member told Chabad.org. "Yet, from the first moment, we were surrounded and uplifted by your love, mitzvos, Torah study, prayer, faith and good wishes on behalf of Henya and her family - literally from all corners of the globe."

A fundraiser has been set up in order to raise money to help the Federman family.