In the aftermath of a violent Hebrew year, dozens of members of Israel’s Anglo community gathered on Sunday to memorialize three American rabbis slaughtered at a Jerusalem synagogue, and an infant girl whose carriage was purposely run down by a driver elsewhere in the city.
The victims’ names were Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, Rabbi Kalman Levine and Rabbi Moshe Twersky, who were bludgeoned to death by two Arab residents of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber while reciting their morning prayers at a synagogue in Har Nof on November 18, 2014, and three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun, killed the month before at a Light Rail station near Ammunition Hill by an Arab resident of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
The ceremony, arranged by the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI), took place at Sha’ar Hagai JNF Memorial Forest, where the names of 335 Americans and Canadians killed here from 1920 to the present are inscribed in a memorial wall.
(Among the names is IDF soldier Yair Landau, the son of AACI National president Julian Landau, was killed during the First Lebanon War in 1982. “This is not only personal, but also the fact that AACI, which is representative of the English-speaking community, recognizes the 335 people who have been killed – either members of the IDF, or as a result of terrorist attacks – so that we can continue to live in the State of Israel,” said Landau as he stood a few feet away from the memorial bearing his son’s name.
“These are people who fell in support of the State of Israel.”) During Sunday’s service, Hilton Share, who leads AACI’s Netanya branch, briefly summarized the lives of each of those being honored. Their stories were as rich and varied as the country they loved and made their home.
Kupinsky was born in Detroit in 1971 to Bracha and Shlomo Kupinsky.
He made aliya with his family in 1982.
“Rabbi Kupinsky was remembered as a big man with a long red beard, a big smile and a big heart,” said Share.
“During his IDF service, he was in the Casualty Identification Unit of the IDF Rabbinate, and later worked as a kashrut supervisor and with computers....
He was a person who would do anything for anyone, at any time.
Friends also recalled he was a Torah scholar who loved learning, as well as a dedicated husband and father.”
Kupinsky, Share said, is buried next to his daughter, Chaya Chana, who died two years ago in her sleep. He is survived by his wife Yakova, five children aged 5-16, his parents and five siblings.
Levine, 55, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where he was a devoted fan of the Royals Major League Baseball team before making aliya in 1982 to devote himself to Torah study.
“A humble person and a serious learner, he spent days studying at a kollel [yeshiva for married men] in Mea She’arim, and his evenings learning in Har Nof,” said Share. “He also had a sharp sense of humor and loved to joke around; as a young man he would entertain at weddings by doing skits and all kinds of ‘shtick.’ But Torah study and living righteously were his passions – the things that defined his life.”
Levine is survived by his wife Chaya, 10 children, five grandchildren and his parents, who still live in Kansas City.
As the scion of two great rabbinic families, Twersky, 59, who made aliya from Boston in 1990, was perhaps the best known of the three rabbis killed that morning in Har Nof.
On his maternal side, he was the grandson of Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, head of Yeshiva University and a founder of modern Orthodoxy in the US. On his paternal side, he was the descendant of the renowned Twersky hassidic dynasty and grandson of Rabbi Meshullam Twersky, the Tolner rebbe of Boston. His father, Rabbi Isadore Twersky, was founder of the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard, where Moshe earned a degree before receiving a graduate degree at Yeshiva University.
“He was the head of the Torat Moshe Yeshiva, one of the first in Israel to cater to post-high school students from English countries,” said Share. “One of his former students who eulogized him said: ‘He was an angel among men. He was the paradigm of holiness and purity – a tzadik [righteous man] in every sense of the word.’ He was a gentle, affable, loving, tolerant and humble man who preferred to sit in the back of the yeshiva study hall rather than at the head of the table.”
Twersky is survived by his wife Miriam, five children and 10 grandchildren.
Chaya Zissel Braun was born on July 9, 2014, to Channa and Shmuel Elimelech Braun, who had made aliya from Rockland County, New York, so that Shmuel could study at an Israeli yeshiva.
“On October 22, 2014, Channa and Shmuel took their three-monthold daughter to her first visit to the Kotel,” said Share. “They returned home via the Light Rail and had just disembarked at the Ammunition Hill station when a Palestinian deliberately drove his car into the crowd at the train station. Chaya flew out of her stroller and landed on the ground 10 meters away.”
Although Chaya was briefly resuscitated by a paramedic, she died two hours later at Hadassah University Medical Center on Mount Scopus.
Less than a year after the tragedy, Channa gave birth to another child.
“In a strange bit of irony, a few weeks ago, Channa and Shmuel had another baby – which was delivered by the same MDA paramedic who treated Chaya at Ammunition Hill last year,” Share said.
AACI National Memorial Committee co-chairman Rabbi Jay Karzen, who led the ceremony with co-chairwoman Donna Grushka, said that every year, names are added to the memorial wall, representing a “death in the family.”
“There’s no time that we experience the death of a loved one through violence that isn’t painful, because we’re all family, and when a family member falls, we are all mourning,” Karzen said.
Among those in attendance who laid floral wreaths by the deceased included IDF Lt. Col. Beni Brosh, Home Front Command; Cmdr. Sean Maxwell, Defense Attache Office of the US Embassy; and Gedalia Schorsch, of the gap-year program Aardvark Israel.