Over the last few days, I have become increasingly overwhelmed at the amount of Facebook shares of pictures of Ezra Schwartz, may his memory be blessed. At first, he was someone I could relate to on may levels. Like Ezra, I, too, had spent a year abroad studying in Israel and I currently attend Rutgers University, the school he had planned on coming to next year. He was a passionate sports fan and loved watching games with his family, just like me. Now, a few days after he was laid to rest in his hometown of Sharon, MA, Ezra Schwartz has become a political statement.
Left and right, people cannot seem to get over the language many public figures used to describe his death. Just this week, Robert Barchi, the president of Rutgers University sent out an e-mail describing his grounds for ordering the university flags to be lowered. Under the title “Rutgers Flag to Be Lowered to Honor Victims of Attacks,” Barchi wrote, “Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old resident of Sharon, Massachusetts, who had accepted admission to Rutgers Business School and was taking a gap year in Israel, died in an indiscriminate attack that took the lives of three people when a gunman opened fire on a line of traffic in the West Bank on Thursday.” While there are some aspects of this statement that can be viewed as flawed, it is important to note that Ezra was mentioned in the same e-mail as a Rutgers alum who was tragically killed at a hotel Mali.
Many classmates of mine were troubled by Barchi’s use of the word “indiscriminate” in describing the attack. When I somewhat sardonically asked them if they were really that upset over this one word, they retorted that Barchi was wrong and that the attack was not “indiscriminate,” to which I replied that they should go open up a dictionary. Indiscriminate means done randomly, and, to the best of my knowledge, if there was a pattern to these Palestinian attacks, the Israelis would have prevented this attack, as well as all the others. It was indeed random in the way that it was not prevented.
In my humble opinion, Mr. Barchi was under no obligation to mention Ezra, since he never actually attended Rutgers. But he did, and we should be thankful for that. This e-mail reached hundreds of students at my university and I could not be prouder of our president for bringing this to light.
This brings us to Monday night’s NFL game. The New England Patriots, being the classy institution that they are, as well as being owned by Robert Kraft, noted pro-Israel businessman, honored a request from an Israeli MK asking to take a moment of silence before the game began in Ezra’s memory. Ezra was a huge Pats fan, and this gesture was a fantastic way to honor his memory, as well as bring it to the attention to millions of Americans across the nation. On average, 13 million Americans watch Monday Night Football, and of that amount, it is safe to say that many own a computer or a smartphone and googled “Ezra Schwartz” after watching the moment of silence on TV. You could not ask for more publicity of the death of a young man who was murdered.
Yet people were disgusted that the announcer at Gillette Stadium did not say the word “Israel” when describing Ezra’s death. Even as millions of Americans watched the Patriots stand in silence (a silence that brought even Rob Gronkowski to tears), people still found something to complain about. Let us not forget that, like President Barchi, Robert Kraft did not have to do this, but he granted the request out of the goodness of his heart.
Through out the Bible, we, the Jews, are described as an “am kishei oref,” a stiff-necked people. We are never pleased, and even when we are, it is never easy to get to that point. Ezra Schwartz lived a full life, no matter his age was when he was taken from this earth, and that life should be honored by those of us still here. We should not point a finger to those who memorialized him through different mediums, no matter what our feelings may be towards them. Everyone has their own way or mourning and showing respect, and we, in turn, must show our respect for those that so graciously brought the world’s attention to Ezra. What is more is that Ezra should not be made into a political statement. He was a person who lived a life, and that life must be celebrated.