Guma Aguiar, a Florida businessman and philanthropist who has given millions to Jewish nonprofit organizations, is missing.
Aguiar, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based CEO of Leor Energy, was last seen around on Tuesday evening, when, according to a local news reports, one of Aguiar’s employees saw him leave in his 31-foot private boat at about 7:30 p.m. The empty boat washed ashore in Fort Lauderdale early Wednesday morning with the engine running and navigation lights on, according to reports.
A close friend of Aguiar, Rabbi Moshe Meir Lipszyc, said he was shocked when the family called him to tell him that Aguiar was missing.
“He’s a very special person, he has a great heart and he helps people across the world,” Lipszyc told NBC-TV in Miami on Wednesday. “He has a heart as big as this world; I cannot say enough good about him.”
In 2009, Aguiar gave $8 million to the pro-aliya group Nefesh B’Nefesh and $500,000 to March of the Living, which takes high school-aged Jews to Poland to see Holocaust sites. He also became a fixture of Israeli sports pages when he became the main sponsor of the Israeli Premier League soccer team Beitar Jerusalem.
According to Army Radio, Aguiar has suffered in recent years from emotional difficulties. In 2010, at the request of his family he was hospitalized at Israel’s Tel Hashomer hospital, one day after claiming in an interview that he and his wife had crossed the border into Gaza and had met with then-captive soldier, Gilad Shalit.
CBS News reports that his wife, Jaimie, has expressed her concern for Aguiar’s safety, and an active search is currently under way by the Fort Lauderdale police and the local Coast Guard.
Aguiar, 33, whose mother is Jewish, was born in Brazil and emigrated to the United States when he was 2 years old. While the father of four did not grow up with much of a Jewish background, he later returned to Judaism and has made large gifts to Jewish and Israeli causes. He made his fortune when he discovered huge natural gas reserves in Texas. When not in Florida, Aguiar also has a home in Jerusalem.