Chabad emissaries in eastern Russia say the Jewish community of Irkutsk has been “hard hit” by the disappearance of 43-year-old Nikolai Brodskii onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

Brodskii, a father-of-two described as “close to Judaism,” was one of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members whose Beijing-bound plane mysteriously disappeared off the coast of Malaysia early on Saturday morning.

College students light candles to pray for the passengers aboard the missing Boeing 777 jet.

College students light candles to pray for the passengers aboard the missing jet.

“The entire community was hard-hit by the news of the tragedy,” said Rabbi Aharon Wagner, head of the Jewish community in the Siberian city. Brodskii was a professional diver returning from a diving holiday when the plane lost contact and disappeared midair in fine weather.

An international search and rescue effort has so far turned up no clues. Two passengers are known to have been travelling on stolen European passports and analysts suggest the incident may be a terrorist attack, pointing out that a lack of debris would indicate the plane’s disintegration at 35,000 ft.

As several countries continued the search efforts, Rabbi Wagner said he had discussed the halachic implications of Brotskii’s disappearance with Russia’s Chief Rabbi Bernard Lazar.

If the crash site is not located or his body is not found, rabbinic authorities will have to work to ensure his wife does not remain an aguna, a halachic status applying to women who wish to remarry but cannot. Until such a point, however, Brodskii’s family are continuing to pray.

Malaysia’s air force chief Rodzali Daud said radar indicated that the plane may have turned back, but did not reveal where it had gone or how far. “We are still trying to make sense of this,” he said.