OU Kosher CEO Rabbi Menachem Genack Remembers Mother Whose IDF Son’s Missing Remains Were Returned After 37 Years

10 Feb 2023

Following Meeting at the Orthodox Union, Rabbi Genack Appealed to then-President Clinton to Help Miriam Baumel Find Her Son

Zachary Baumel

To this day, Orthodox Union CEO Rabbi Menachem Genack remembers the first time Miriam and Yona Baumel, z”l met with him at his office in the OU’s headquarters in New York City 30 years ago. The couple, originally from Brooklyn before emigrating to Israel, came to speak with him about their son, Zachary Baumel z”l, an IDF soldier who had gone missing in the First Lebanon War in 1982.

Miriam Baumel z”l passed away February 2 at age 89.

Zachary, a sergeant first class and tank commander, was declared a missing soldier after the Battle of Sultan Yacoub, along with two other IDF soldiers. Zachary was 21 at the time. The Baumels pleaded with Rabbi Genack to meet with then-President Bill Clinton to help locate their son.

“Miriam and Yona were remarkable,” recalls Rabbi Genack. “They had such strong faith and devotion emanating from within, and had complete belief that, whether alive or passed, their son would be found.”

Yona and Miriam Baumel hold a picture of their missing son, Zachary

Rabbi Genack, during one of many visits to the White House, told President Clinton about the Baumel’s plight and asked what could be done to find Zachary. During a subsequent visit years later, President Clinton told Rabbi Genack he might have news about Zachary and asked Rabbi Genack to call the parents. Rabbi Genack made the emotional phone call. Although the president’s efforts fell through, Rabbi Genack said Miriam and Yona never lost faith their son would be found.

In 2019, 37 years after her son’s disappearance, Zachary’s remains were found through the IDF’s Operation Bittersweet Song, a two-year mission to find the remains of Zachary and the other two missing soldiers, Sgt. First-Class Zvi Feldman and Sgt. First-Class Yehuda Katz. Only Zachary’s remains were located.

While Miriam’s husband had passed away 10 years earlier, Miriam and her two other children attended Zachary’s funeral at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery on April 4, 2019.

Am Yisrael hopes and davens that Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, as well as all missing soldiers, return home soon.