This Two Year Old Drowned, Then A Miracle Happened

GaliSliderGali’s Couture Wigs has recently become a corporate sponsor of Jew in the City and wants to help make hair covering easier for all of our fans who are interested in this mitzvah: Just mention Jew in the City anywhere Gali’s Couture Wigs are sold and you’ll received 5% discount off of a Gali’s Couture Wig. (To set up an appointment or get more info call 516-441-3830 or email info@galiscouturewigs.com.)

On July 26th 2010, Charlene and Jonathan Aminoff went wave running with their sons (near their apartment in Miami) while their two year old daughter, Gali, napped by the pool with her nanny. When they returned from the outing, the Aminoffs were confronted with blood curdling screams. A man they didn’t know was holding a dead child: purple skin, clenched fists, blue finger nails.

Charlene remembers the deep pity she felt for the mother of that lifeless girl, but couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something familiar about her. As she slowly turned her head towards the lounge chair where Gali was napping, Charlene saw a shocking sight: their nanny was sleeping, but Gali was gone. It was at that point it hit her — her beloved daughter was dead.

Her husband Jonathan, a hedge fund manager who had been a volunteer for Hatzala (the Jewish ambulance corps) for twenty years, immediately began performing CPR. Jonathan later explained that with his decades of EMT experience, he could tell instantly who was beyond saving; Jonathan went through the motions of resuscitating his daughter to show his family that he had tried, but was certain it was for naught. As the building’s surveillance cameras later revealed (footage the Aminoffs still have), Gali was under (warm) water for three minutes and ten seconds.

In the midst of despair, as she prayed for a miracle, Charlene was struck with an idea: the Aminoffs were a traditionally observant Sephardic family, but there were many mitzvos that they had not yet broached, despite feeling the pull towards them. As a blonde Persian woman (who had modeled makeup for Chanel), Charlene’s hair was her crowning glory. But in that moment she decided that as a karban (sacrifice) to God she would offer her hair hoping to exchange it for her daughter’s life.

Finding a blue pashmina nearby (pictured above), Charlene began to wrap and wrap her beautiful, golden locks and promised Hashem that no matter what, she was taking on the mitzvah of hair covering. With an uttering of “sh’hechiyanu v’kiyamnu, v’higanu l’azman hazeh” Charlene’s hair was now covered. Jonathan looked up, realized what she was doing, stopped the CPR, and began his own dealings with God.

“For twenty years I volunteered for Hatzala,” Jonathan beseeched the Almighty, his hands shaking towards the heavens, “and never asked for a thing. I’m cashing it all in now. And I’ll give You twenty more years on Hatzala.”

A moment later Jonathan touched Gali’s neck and began screaming, “I’ve got a pulse! I’ve got a pulse! I’ve got a pulse!”

A two year old girl had come back from the dead – her parents were beyond elated, but as the ambulance sped to the hospital, they feared the worst. Only time would tell how severe the brain damage would be. Upon arrival to the hospital Gali’s doctors began running tests as Charlene and Jonathan anxiously prayed and said psalms.

When the panel was complete and Gali had been examined from head to toe, the neurologists approached the Aminoffs in the waiting room. “We are people of science,” they began, “Science is logical. It follows laws, but there is nothing scientific that relates to your daughter. She is a miracle.” Charlene and Jonathan were then informed that there was not the slightest bit of brain damage, not a sign of water in Gali’s lungs, not a trace of gas in her blood. (Gali drowned on a Monday, rested on Tuesday, and was back in the pool on Wednesday!)

Jonathan asked the head doctor, “Are you Jewish?” The doctor unenthusiastically nodded “yes.” “Do you believe in God?” Jonathan inquired. The doctor looked at his colleagues, paused for a moment, and replied, “Now I do.” That doctor is an observant Jew today because of little Gali.

After they returned from the hospital, the Aminoffs learned more about the “stranger” who saved their daughter’s life. It turned out he was a neighbor and like them and most of the residents of their building, only visited his apartment intermittently to vacation. At the end of July in Miami, the building was empty. This neighbor rarely used the pool, but his schedule had freed up the morning that Gali drowned and it was such a lovely day that he decided to fit in a quick swim. There was no one at the pool when he arrived except for a sleeping woman (Gali’s nanny).

He did a few laps in the deep end and attempted to climb out using the deep end’s ladder (close to where he had left his towel), but the day before he had pulled a muscle in his leg and when he tried to ascend, it was too painful. The neighbor decided to use the pool’s stairs instead, and as he made his way to the shallow end, he saw an object at the bottom of the pool, next to the stairs. When he dove down to inspect it, he found a lifeless child.

image3The Aminoffs were instructed by several rabbis to publicize the miracle. A nes so open and obvious is so rare in this day and age (as everyone here knows – we rarely see any reward for a mitzvah in this world, let alone an open miracle) the rabbis warned the Aminoffs it would “cost” them too much in the spiritual realm.

They explained that the way you “pay off” such a big merit is by sharing the story of the miracle with as many people as possible. Because the Aminoffs felt a special connection to hair covering, they decided to start Gali’s Couture Wigs which creates beautiful sheitels (like the one Charlene is wearing here) to help other women fulfill the mitzvah of kisui rosh. 

I recently got to meet Charlene, hear the story from her firsthand, and see their gorgeous sheitels. It was then that Jew in the City and Gali’s Couture Wigs decided to team up and spread inspiration together. Gali’s Couture Wigs has recently become a corporate sponsor of Jew in the City and wants to help make hair covering easier for all of our fans who are interested in this mitzvah: Just mention Jew in the City anywhere Gali’s Couture Wigs are sold and you’ll received 5% discount off of a Gali’s Couture Wig. (To set up an appointment or get more info call 516-441-3830 or email info@galiscouturewigs.com.)

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Allison Josephs About Allison Josephs

Allison is the Founder and Director of Jew in the City. Please find her full bio here.

Comments

  1. Chatzkaleh says:

    It is a known fact that children who nearly drown can survive for longer periods of time since the cold water lowers their metabolism, requiring less oxygen.

    Extreme casses, from Wikipedia
    “Children who have a near-drowning accidents in water near 0 °C (32 °F) can occasionally be revived even over an hour after losing consciousness.”

    So it is unlikely to be a miracle. Nevertheless, I am very happy for the parents that their child survived!

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Thanks for your comment, Chatzkaleh. But if you’ll note at the beginning of the article, I mentioned that it was July in Miami – the water was, in fact, quite warm, so while the cold water fact is interesting, it’s not relevant to this story. It was the doctors who called her situation a miracle. My father is also a neurologist and when I described the event to him, he was also shocked.

      • Chatzkaleh says:

        Good Shabbos Allison 😉

        A quick drop in temperature, albeit not too steep, can still lead to hypothermia by little children (faster heart rate), even in summer and even already at temperatures below 95 (35 degrees celsius). Especially if the infant wears clothing and there is a breeze, the temperature could drop dramatically.

        Don’t be too impressed about what the doctor said as they sometimes like to make you or themselves feel good by saying something really special happened. Truth is, that it does occasionally happen with small children that they survive these ordeals. Which makes it something natural, not a miracle.

        Miracles are coming by too cheap nowadays, if you ask me.

        • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

          Shavuah tov, Chatzkaleh. I have been in pools in Florida in the middle of the summer. They are VERY warm. In terms of the doctor just saying something to make himself “feel good” – neither of us know the guy, but he apparently was so moved by what he saw that it caused him to become an observant Jew. My own father, who was the chief of neurology in his hospital for many years before retiring was also very moved by this story and also considered it miraculous. But you are free to believe otherwise.

  2. Debi Drecksler says:

    I loved the story and I do believe in miracles. However, I have always been confused why Orthodox women spend thousands of dollars to cover their natural hair with wigs that make them (in many cases) even more gorgeous. How is this a mitzvah? I felt like the ending of this wonderful, heartwarming story was an advertisement for a wig business. I was disappointed.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      thanks for your comment, debi. it happens to be that Gali’s Couture Wigs are specifically priced lower than most companies to make these wigs more affordable. in terms of how is this a mitzvah if they make a woman look more gorgeous – the purpose of the mitzvah is not to make a woman look ugly (please see these articles/video)
      http://jewinthecity.com/2009/07/isnt-wearing-a-wig-over-hair-kind-of-pointless/
      http://jewinthecity.com/2012/06/wheres-the-line-between-tznius-modest-and-sexy/
      http://jewinthecity.com/2008/10/what-to-wear-on-my-hair-episode-1/
      http://jewinthecity.com/2007/11/why-orthodox-men-dont-wear-wigs/

      as to the ending of this wonderful article being an ad for a wig business – the aminoffs did not start this business to make money, in fact, their margins are very slim. jonathan, thankfully, did very well as a hedge fund manager and retired before 40. they started the business to help spread the story of the miracle and to sell beautiful wigs at a more reasonable price so that other women would have an easier time fulfilling this mitzvah. i included the info at the bottom not only because they are sponsoring our work (and giving our fans a special discount) but because the wig business is the ending to the story – it’s how they responded to the tremendous kindness that was done to them. i understand if starting a wig business is not how you would have responded if you were in their place, but because they felt that in the merit of charlene covering her hair, gali came back, it was with this mitzvah that they wanted to get involved.

      • Debi Drecksler says:

        Thank you for your response and the links to articles. They are greatly appreciated. Debi

      • Juan Sinnreich says:

        It is not important what wig or how much it cost wether sexy or plain. The fact is that you decided to perform a mitzvah because of what happened. My wife decided to start covering her hair and wears a sheitel full time. I respect her for it she looks sexy to me ( remember beauty is in the eyes of the beholder) meaning the one that looks at it not the one that wears it) keep it up or on and may you be zoche to walk her down the isle at her chupa

  3. Hatzalahmember says:

    While I am in no way undermining the mitzvah of covering hair nor am I in the know of how Gd operates, I do have one question though. Why is the family and everyone else attributing the miracle due to the mother covering her hair. If you read the story, the father went all in calling for this one “favor” in the merit of all his volunteer years in Hatzalah. He even committed to an additional 20 years! Perhaps the miracle was brought about due to all the lives he helped and saved? Why is the message solely on covering hair and not one of encouraging more people to join various lifesaving organizations?

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Thanks for your comment, Hatzalamember. I don’t think ANYONE is negating Jonathan’s 40 year commitment to hatzala! It is mentioned every time Charlene tells the story and I included it here. Why the Aminoffs decided to start a wig company as opposed to opening up a new branch of hatzala – I don’t know – you could ask them. I’m sure they had a good reason! But my understanding is that they believe it was a joint spiritual effort.

  4. Oh, dear. What a terrifying ordeal for the parents. It is understandable that they would “negotiate” for their daughter’s recovery. Who wouldn’t? But I hope there is more to this story. The way the article reads makes it seem as if the rabbis are suggesting G-d saved the little girl because of her parents’ promises, and that is troubling. From the “sacrifices” to the “repayment” of a spiritual “debt,” it makes it seem as if there were commodities being traded rather than G-d showing mercy because that’s what G-d does. Perhaps this would be a topic for Rabbi Abramowitz’s Q&A.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Thanks for your comment, ZFMD. So the truth is is that no one knows the workings of God and no one here is claiming to. I told the story as it was told to me. They pled with God, a pulse returned, and the tests show that it was as if she had never been underwater and the formerly atheist doctor called the event a “miracle.” Why and how that happened no one knows.

      I think the rabbis’ feeling about “paying back” comes from the idea of where do you get your reward – in this world or the next? If they got too much of it in this world, publicizing such a miracle in a time when so many people have lost their faith could perhaps be a way to spread the personal miracle into a miracle that was bigger than themselves.

  5. Dina lundner says:

    Bh this story turned out the way it did… But stories like this one are insesntive to those parents who did not have such a positive out come. How many parents out there have sat at their childs bedside taking on kabbalos promising GD that they will do whatever if He would only let their child live? But yet GD still chose to say no. We dont understand why this little girl was zoche to recover the same way we dont understand why another child wasnt. This is one of the fundamentals of being a GD fearing jew. Being able to say ” i dont understand” wether for positive thing or a negative thing. I have yet to see which “rabbis” said to publicize this story… All i know is that parents who have lost children read storys like this and it hurts… These story should remain private

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Thanks for your comment, Dina. But just to clarify one more time – I am not pretending to know how God works nor am I claiming that doing a mitzvah will lead to a reward in this world. You are completely correct that we don’t know why sometimes we get the answer we want and sometimes we don’t. However, to play devil’s advocate, if you want this story kept private then every miraculous story from the Holocaust where a person escaped with help from Above should also be kept private as 6 million of our brothers and sisters perished, yet there are countless Holocaust memoirs which have been published. If you see the response – the vast majority of people here are strengthened in their faith when they read a story like this. Even if those rabbis hadn’t told the Aminoffs to publicize the miracle I think they would have been justified but they specifically were instructed to do so by rabbis who they go to. But even as we share we of COURSE must be sensitive to not put such a story in the face of someone we know who is suffering.

  6. Maya Avitan says:

    This article is in such poor taste, it was hard to read it to the bottom, where an advertisement for the couples wig company glared out. To echo the many other comments below, we don't know the workings of Gd or why he does or doesn't cause things to happen. There is no direct correlation between the hair covering and the child being brought back to life. This article just reads as an advertisement for a wig company (and I'm sure Jew in the city doesn't get any kickback from sales either …)

    In addition I can't imagine any "big rabbis" in the sefardi world endorsing women to take on wearing wigs (Rav Ovadia repeatedly spoke out against it).

    If anything, these "big rabbis" and this family should be publicizing the importance of hiring responsible help and taking infant CPR classes.

    If sbhrbjjfnx

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Thanks for your comment, Maya. I’m sorry this article was so hard for you to read. We are certainly not forcing anyone to read posts on this site if they don’t like them. Incidentally – almost 4000 people did like this article. It’s the most liked article in the history of our site, actually. You are completely correct that there is no direct correlation between hair covering or any mitzvah for that matter and something good (or miraculous happening). We didn’t share the story to claim that there was. We shared it because it’s a story that uplifts and inspires and gives strength to many who hear it and we wanted to spread that inspiration.

      And you are correct that Gali’s Couture Wigs supports Jew in the City – that was the reason we mentioned that they are a new sponsor. In terms of “big rabbis in the Sephardi world endorsing wigs” – I didn’t mention rabbis endorsing wigs, I mentioned rabbis telling the Aminoffs to publicize the miracle. And you are correct that learning CPR and putting up gates around pools are also important measures.

      • Fascinating article. Promoting products on a blog in a way that is considerate to the readers, and effective, is always a challenge. This did the job nicely and fairly. The article tells an engaging story and mentions the business idea that resulted. That’s cool.

  7. Catholic Mom says:

    With all due respect, the problem with this story as written is that it furthers a very wrong notion about the relationship of God to man. And that is that God is a merchant and we exist in a sort of quid-pro-quo relationship with him in which we “merit” (or not) certain things, up to and including life in the present and in the hereafter.

    I’m no Protestant — not by any stretch of the imagination — but here is one thing the Protestants do have right. We cannot “merit” *anything* from God, because ever single thing we receive from God — the air we breathe, the water we drink, the life within us and around us — is a free gift of God that we could never earn in a million years. You cannot “call in” markers with God (or create markers with promises of future acts) because you *have* no “markers” with God. And all you have to do is think of your relationship with your own kids. Can a kid that you brought into the world, nurtured, kept alive, and gave every single thing he has have “markers” with you? Can he say “I picked up my room for 18 years, now you owe me to pay for college?” Or would you refuse to pay for college because he didn’t do his chores? And which of you would not run to meet every single need of your child regardless of what they promised? Would your child have to call in markers for you to save his life — even if he had spent years rejecting and hurting you? Of course, not, you would do it instantly and freely.

    That’s the whole story of the prodigal son. The son rejects the father, squanders his inheritance, and makes nothing of all that he has been given. Yet, in an instant, the father takes him back and restores his place in the family. We have no markers with God. The saving of this child’s life was a beautiful miracle but the miracle shows us “so whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Thanks for your comment, Catholic Mom. I actually specifically wrote in a recent post that God is not an ATM where we can make withdrawals. I also noted that what happened in this story is not what we are accustomed to seeing. And several times in the comments, I reiterated that I was not pretending to know the mind of God – I was simply giving over the story as it was told to me. She did this. He did that. A pulse returned and the child was unharmed.

      It’s true that God doesn’t “owe” us anything and that everything is a give. At the same time, there is a strain of Jewish thought – Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev was among this camp – that wanted God to “pay us back” for the good we had done. Here is a story told about him as he pleads with God one Yom Kippur http://www.berdichev.org/neilah_yom_kippur_5770.html

      • Catholic Mom says:

        Well, I think this is a very difficult point — perhaps the most difficult point of all for a believer. Because both Jewish and Christian scriptures indicate that God looks favorably on our prayers — that is, he does not tell us NOT to pray or to ask for mercy. But I think the nature of our prayer defines the nature of our relationship.

        An ancient Christian principle says “lex orandi, lex credenda” which may be translated as “as we pray, so do we believe.” It can be incredibly tempting to try to haggle with or make demands of God in times of great crisis — “Listen, if you will only do this, I’ll do that. Or think of what I’ve already done. Surely I deserve some consideration?” And that is exactly what is at the heart of this story, which is what makes it troubling. And if the prayer is granted, how could the person NOT connect what they said to God with the outcome? And when the story is publicized, how can that not be, in part at least, the takeaway for readers?

        And Christians haggle all the time, because it’s a natural, panicked, human response. But we are taught (by example) that our prayer should only be: “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet, not as I will, but as You will.” Because when we “bargain” or try to force God’s hand, as in the story of Rabbi Yitzchok that you linked to — what happens when this “cup” does not pass from us? When we have to drink it to the bitter end? What happens when 6 million innocent people are murdered (or one innocent child drowns)? But we know that this world is a world of suffering, and we know that we and everyone we love will die. And we have to make peace with this in our relationship with God so that our faith and our hope is not based on what happens in this world.

        But I would be very interested to hear a rabbi comment on this.

        • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

          Thanks for your comment, Catholic Mom. We have evidence from the Torah of our leaders bargaining with God. Abraham is trying to get God to not wipe out Sodom and Gemorah. In the Talmud, a sage named Choni a Magil told Hashem that he’s not going to leave a circle (he drew) until God made it rain. In recent times, Rav Scheinberg put on an extra pair of tzitzis for everyday his son was sick, then walked around with like 200 pairs of tzitzis on for the rest of his life. I think the way we take this is that the world *usually* does not work this way (as I noted at the end of the story) but that every now and again maybe it could.

          • Catholic Mom says:

            Again, with all due respect, Abraham is not actually bargaining with God — that is, he isn’t offering him a ‘quid pro quo.” He’s arguing with God, and not for his own sake — he is, as it were, attempting to mediate between sinners and God and to present God with reasons for sparing the cities.

            Again, with respect, what Choni a Magil did is expressly forbidden in Deuteronomy 6:16. Is it possible that God does not know what the right or the just or the merciful thing is to do until we announce like children that he MUST do it or else?

            As to putting on extra pairs of tzizis, this is the road down which the Church ended up selling indulgences. “Pay to build a church, crawl up Croag Padraig on your bare bleeding knees, say 10,000 Hail Marys.” And for this the Reformation rightly corrected it. Because “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?” The rest is vanity and an attempt to control God (as if we could).

          • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

            Thanks for your comment, Catholic Mom. Christian philosophy isn’t a very useful proof in such a conversation about Judaism. Did you see the story about Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev? My sense is that for this issue in Judaism – as with many issues – there are multiple opinions. Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev and Rav Scheinberg were Torah giants. Yet at the same time, I’m sure there are those who disagree with them.

            But philosophical debates aside – I truthfully wasn’t trying to make any recommendations about how to deal with God. I was telling the story as it happened – with my note at the end that we don’t see the world working like this normally. My take is that we almost never see open miracles and we rarely see mitzvos being rewarded in this world but maybe every now and again we might.

  8. this story literally brought tears to my eyes. Allison kudos to you for answering everyones questions with such patience! am yisroel chai!! may we all be zoicha to miracles! also it says that when one experiences a ness (miracles) one should announce it and share it with others so, yes this is exactly what this story is

  9. Miriam Leah Schwartz says:

    I’ve heard this amazing story before. I’m just saddened and don’t understand why so many people look at this article with so much negativity. A family witnessed and experienced a miracle and the mother took on a mitzvah she hadn’t been doing before. It’s a beautiful story, a wig line was started because of it, and the company is now a corporate sponsor of the amazing organization Allison started to help break stereotypes of the Orthodox Jewish world. Sounds pretty awesome to me! I wish people were less pessimistic!

    • I agree completely. Isn’t Judaism (and Noahides for that matter) supposed to be about miracles, belief in the Almight, Creater of the Heavens and Earth? This negativity is greying the site…

  10. That is so special!!! GOS הוא אדיר , שבח לאלולו לבד .

  11. Mikayla says:

    Wow.. Why do so many doubt the workings of Hashem? Who are we to judge why Hashem would allow this type of miracle. We can have miracles today beyond our imagination but we need to stop limiting God and stop speaking so harshly to our fellow Jews. Maybe the reason people do not see blessing and miracles from Mitsvahs is because people simply do not expect them. Maybe for Charlene to cover hair was a struggle and the sacrifice for her to do so was so great that it cause a miracle to burst forth. I think people limit what can Hashem can do and therefore they do not see the creator working. Every Jewish person should applaud someone succeeding and being blessed not critcle. This story brought tears to my eyes, then as I read comments the spirit of the article was crushed by the condemning comments. Everyone should be blessed,and prosperous and when someone does receive these, we should be great fun for that person. Love your neighbor as yourself. The Mitsvahs are more than a bunch of activities you do to take up time. They are connections to God. Only through doing the Mitsvahs with a heart full of love, will you ever be able to connect and experience what God has to offer. Thank you for sharing this story, it’s beautiful…. I wish you much prayer and blessing for this story to expand and bless others.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful post!

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