Kenneth Kronen, a long-time Cantor at the Plainview Jewish Center who survived the infamous Rikers plane crash, died on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. He was 95.
Kronen was the last living survivor of the 1957 plane crash in which a Northeastern Airlines plane from LaGuardia Airport crash-landed on Rikers Island, killing 22 people. Prisoners from the jail assisted dozens of passengers who were “tumbling out of that ship,” as one prisoner described 60 years later.
“They were the people who rescued us,” Kronen said of the prisoners in a 2017 interview with the New York Post. “I don’t know if all of us would’ve even gotten out without them. We were all burning. It was so hot, and the plane was on fire.”
Kronen emerged as a leader in the Long Island and New York City Jewish community. He was well-regarded throughout his many years as Cantor of the Plainview Jewish Center, where he inspired congregants with his voice.
Kronen served as chairman of the Israel-based American Friends of Assaf Harofeh Medical Center. He was a founding member of Chabad of East Hampton with Rabbi Leibel Baumgarten and made major contributions to The Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach.
“Ken Kronen was a very dedicated and cherished benefactor of the Hampton Synagogue,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier. “He was a regular worshiper who played a significant role in the development of our institution.
“Following the plane crash in 1957, he was given a second chance at life, and as a result of that very challenging incident, Ken Kronen lived life to the fullest in terms of his commitment to his faith, his philanthropy, his love for his family, and his obsession with tennis,” Schneier added. “He was given a second chance at life, and he made the best of it.”
Kronen also contributed to the Ramaz School in Manhattan, along with being a major contributor to other Jewish philanthropic endeavors.
In his professional life, Kronen was a businessman: he was the vice president of Black Stone Webbing, the largest elastic company in the world.
“He was a powerfully energetic, kind, enthusiastic individual who always put people before deed,” said his wife, Dr. Jerilyn Kronen. “People were most important to him, and he was devoutly religious.”
In addition to his wife, Kronen is survived by his four children, six grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren.