(JTA) — At a memorial ceremony for 62 people who died in a plane crash in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, the city’s rabbi recited a mourning prayer for a Jewish surgeon who died in the incident.
Igor Pakus, a 62-year-old chief surgeon at one of Rostov’s hospitals, was one of 44 Russian citizens killed in the March 19 crash of Flydubai airline’s flight FDB981.
After circling for two hours over the airport because of a gear malfunction, the plane, which was en route from the United Arab Emirates, attempted to land but exploded, killing everyone aboard. The cause of the crash is the subject of an ongoing investigation. Researchers said they believed it was the result of a technical malfunction.
Pakus, who died along with his wife in the crash, identified himself as Jewish but was not an active member of the community. Ten years ago he attended a ceremony for the opening of the local synagogue, Chaim Danzinger, the city’s rabbi, told JTA Wednesday.
“We came to the ceremony to pray for this Jew and say Kaddish for him, but not only for him,” Danzinger, a Chabad rabbi, said of the delegation of Jewish community members who attended the commemoration ceremony earlier this week. “We came to pray for all the victims and to demonstrate that the Jewish community is grieving with the rest of Rostov.”
Authorities are using DNA testing on body parts found at the crash site, Danzinger said, “but this could take months.” He added that “there were very few remains left, it all was incinerated, making the prospect of a burial unlikely.”
The absence of a grave, he added, “makes it more difficult for family members to grieve because it deprives them of closure – which is also part of the reason we found it important to participate.”