As many of you know, American teenager Ezra Schwartz was murdered last month. His death was incredibly painful for the Jewish people. Although I didn’t know Ezra personally, our lives’ paralleled in many ways. We’re both 18, both from Boston, both members of the Camp Yavneh community. From photos, videos, and his parents and sister’s remarks at his funeral just last month, it’s easy to tell that Ezra was a tremendously special young man. One video from this summer depicts carefree Ezra joyfully dancing with his young campers, they loved him. While his life was cut short, in his eighteen years Ezra impacted countless lives.
Ezra was killed arbitrarily. It could have been me; it could have been any number of gap-year students in Israel; it could have been anyone. It’s during these tragic times that I’m most tempted to ask the core question: Why does hate exist? But I won’t, both because the answer is unfathomable and because I’ve cried enough over Ezra’s death already.
I’ve come to realize that I primarily cope with tragedy in two ways. The first relates to appreciation and gratitude. The key with this method is thinking that times can always be worse and that we have much to be grateful for. With this approach, I soon find myself entrenched in the sunset’s beauty or captivated by that unique, fresh smell outside following a rainstorm. Stepping back and putting the incident into context is an important first step, but I think just a first step. Because ultimately, this approach does nothing for the world at large.
The second step is taking action. To harness the anger, sadness, and fire within ourselves to make a positive impact isn’t an effortless endeavor, it takes a certain degree of maturity that I think I only developed recently under the tragic circumstances surrounding Ezra’s death. It all happened the morning of Monday, December 7.
It had been about two weeks since Ezra’s funeral and I woke up feeling very fortunate to be alive. At that moment I asked myself with brutal honesty: What the heck am I doing with my life?! I’m so lucky to be here on this earth, I need to take advantage of that fact and really start living to the max.
After I learned that Ezra was killed doing a mitzvah delivering food to Israeli soldiers, I became determined to do one in his honor – something big, something I would’ve never before considered doing. As a college student without any judgment whatsoever, my logical answer to this seemingly existential crisis was to run a half-marathon. I run periodically, I thought, so how hard can it be?
In Ezra’s honor, I decided to run the Miami half-marathon on January 24th through Yachad, an extraordinary organization that essentially provides programming and happiness for those with disabilities. In fact, Ezra himself was a Yachad volunteer in Israel.
In honor of Ezra, I am raising $3,000 for this organization. His death pained us beyond belief. We coped, but now I encourage you to take the second step: To take action and commit to this meaningful cause. Even if just a few dollars, everything counts. I’ve always had incredible faith in the Jewish community and this instance is no different. Please click here to donate.
For Ezra, for Yachad, for making a positive impact, I thank you.