California widow of drowned family establishes scholarship fund at Jewish school in childrens' name

Sarah Wyman, presumed the lone survivor of a tragic New Year's weekend drowning tragedy, has created a scholarship fund at a Jewish school in Petaluma to honor her two children, who were supposed to attend there this week.

According to the website at Chabad of Petaluma, Wyman created the fund to honor her children, ages 4 and 7, who are presumed dead from a Jan. 3 drowning accident. A sneaker wave at Blind Beach in Jenner snatched up the children from the beach, and her husband, Michael Wyman, 40, raced in to save them. He drowned, and the children have not been found. The search continues for the bodies on Wednesday, according to the California State Parks. 

The Wyman family had recently moved to the North Bay from Oakland, where they attended Chabad of the East Bay and Anna had attended Camp Gan Israel at Lake Temescal in Oakland, according to the J., a Jewish newspaper. 

Rabbi Yehuda Ferris told KTVU that he and his wife spoke to Sarah Wyman shortly after the tragedy.  

"She called Sunday night to say, my kids, my husband were swept to sea," Ferris said. At first, he said he'd pray for their recovery. But then he realized the gravity of the situation. 

Sarah Wyman was with her best friend that day too, and along with family who flew in to be with her, Ferris said that Wyman is "coping" but wants her privacy. 

Chabad is an Orthodox Jewish tradition with its roots in the Chassidic movement of the 18th century. Today, over 3,500 Chabad institutions are located in more than 85 countries. 

 According to the fund, the two children, Anna and John, were to begin their studies at Petaluma Hebrew within days. "The children were excited to embark on this new chapter and explore their Jewish roots. They had just gotten a taste of the fun at the Chanukah Drive-Thru Experience. They had previously attended the Chabad Hebrew School in Berkeley and had loved it," the fund states. 

In conjunction with the Chabad Jewish Center, Sarah Wyman decided to open a scholarship fund to ensure that "every Jewish child be able to receive a Jewish education, and explore their culture, traditions, and holidays."

The scholarship fund will encourage new enrollment in the program, and financially assist families who otherwise would not be able to attend. The scholarship fund will also benefit children wishing to attend Camp Aleph for a Jewish summer experience. In addition, it will assist boys and girls as they reach the age of Bar and Bat Mitzvah to be able to celebrate properly.

As for what their faith and God would have to say about this drowning tragedy, Ferris was honest: "That's a tough one. I don't want to offer meaningless platitudes."

However, he said that he truly believes that this physical life is temporary and that he told Sarah Wyman she will one day be reunited after this life with her husband and children. 

To learn more about the fund, click here. The Chabad of East Bay has also started a scholarship fund in Anna and John's name

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Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated on Jan. 7, 2021.