Mitzvah for Henya: Jewish community supporting mother who nearly drowned trying to save baby

Mitzvah for Henya: Jewish community supporting mother who nearly drowned trying to save baby

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WHITEFISH BAY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Jewish groups are coming together throughout the world to pray for a woman who is a pillar of Milwaukee's Jewish community.

Henya Federman's family runs all Chabad institutions across Wisconsin, including the Bader Hillel Academy in Whitefish Bay.

This week, tragedy struck her and her family of thirteen children, while they were on a Chabat mission in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

On Tuesday, Henya Federman slipped while holding her 4-month-old baby, Shterna, who then fell into the ocean.

Federman jumped in to try save her but was unsuccessful. Shterna died in the accident.

Federman nearly drowned and was airlifted to an ICU in Miami, where she is still fighting for her life.

"Every person I've been in contact with the last couple days can't stop talking about Henya being the most beautiful person," said Devorkie Shmotkin, Federman's sister-in-law.

On Friday morning, the students of Bader Hillel Jewish Academy gathered to send prayers of healing for the Federman family.

The tragedy has gained attention throughout the Jewish community, with nationwide support.

"Henya believed very strongly that every person can help, and every person can make a change in this world. So, take this opportunity to do a mitzvah," Shmotkin said.

In Jewish culture, a mitzvah is a good deed for God. The Federman family is asking everyone to do a mitzvah in Henya's name,

"Helping another person, just saying hello in the streets, smile to people," Shmotkin suggested.

They created a page called Mitzvah for Henya, where more than 4,000 people have pledged to honor her with an act of kindness.

"Changing the world starts with one little kind act, and then it's a ripple effect," Shmotkin said.

There's also an online fundraiser for the Federman family as they handle medical expenses.

So far, they've raised more than $242,000.

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