Meet the rabbi who got stranded in Newfoundland on 9/11

Rabbi Leivi Sudak, left, with Eithne and Carl Smith, local Newfoundlanders who took care of him during his stay in Gander. (CJN file photo)

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11, when al-Qaeda suicide attackers flew four planes into American landmarks, resulting in 2,977 deaths, including 24 Canadians. The planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

Rabbi Leivi Sudak didn’t know any of this when his flight to New York from London, U.K., was ordered to land in Gander, Newfoundland. Rabbi Sudak was flying to New York to pray at the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson on Sept. 11, 2001. It was right before Rosh Hashanah—he planned to make the trip there and back in one long day.

Instead, Rabbi Sudak’s flight was one of 38 planes diverted and forced to land in Gander after North American airspace shut down.

What happened to him there—the warm reception he received from Canadian locals, and how they accommodated his religious needs—was commemorated in the hit Tony-winning musical Come From Away, written by the Canadian Jewish artists Irene Sankoff and David Hein.

On today’s episode, Rabbi Sudak joins to remember that life-changing day and recall his role in the story that changed the world.

What we talked about:


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Victoria Redden is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network; find more great Jewish podcasts at