An Open Letter to the Parents of Ezra Schwartz

Dear Ari and Ruth,

Like so many people, I am at a loss for words, and yet I know that I must search for them because it is so important that you feel embraced by people from near and far.

Your deeply moving, personal, and loving eulogies are striking both in their content and tone. The feeling you conveyed, along with intense grief, is one of openness and an ability to receive the myriad gestures of comfort, love, and support from others.

It is not necessarily a given that anyone who endures a loss of this magnitude could experience comfort from those reaching out. Your ability to do this, to see light even in the midst of intense darkness, IS the seed of resilience. With time, resilience gives us the impulse to move from hopelessness to hope.

Resilience is not a quality we plan to develop in ourselves by looking for encounters with adversity. It is a character trait that develops after the fact. While I have not personally experienced it, I fortunately (and unfortunately) observe this resilience in Jews living in and outside of Israel. From these observations, one can notice unusual beauty in such a cruel and unforgiving world to propel us to move forward and thrive as individuals and as a people.

Resilience is what supported a bride, who lost her brother and father nearly two weeks ago, to stand under the chuppah this past Thursday night.

It is what compelled a few hundred people to meet at Ben Gurion Airport a week ago on Saturday night to sing and pray in the midst of shock and grief over the murder of your son Ezra. It is also what motivated hundreds of people to travel several hours by bus to Sharon, Massachusetts, and to stand in the cold rain for over two hours, to express their support and love for your family.

It is what produced, at the time of this writing, a 250% plus over-subscription of the Siyyum Tanach organized by the Maimonides School of Brookline in honor of Ezra’s memory.

It is what drew people from all over Israel, some who walked for several kilometers in intense heat, and many of whom carried water bottles to simply distribute to anyone in need, to support the families and classmates who buried their beloved Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali.

It is what enabled a bereaved mother who lost not one but TWO of her sons in the Israeli army to offer her blessings, and to create joy for that same bride during the time that she sat shiva for her father and brother.

It is what gives the residents of Gush Etzion the courage to go about their daily business in the midst of what sometimes feels like a war zone.

And there are countless other examples.

It is my deepest hope and prayer that the resilience that you demonstrate and also notice in others helps those who are inconsolable. I can only imagine how your dear friends and the Sharon community share this intense grief and yet may feel conflicted about accepting gestures of love, support, or comfort.

Accepting comfort from each other, while everyone’s experience of this unimaginable loss is unique, helps us recognize the beauty in our friends, in our community, and in our nation EVEN when the pain is unbearable. It is this paradoxical perspective that will nurture resilience.

Though many of us cannot visit with you in person, please accept our deepest condolences. May you experience comfort from those who continue to reach out to you. May the light of resilience give you hope in moments of intense darkness.

May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Am Yisrael Chai.

About the Author
Debby Wine made aliyah from Sharon, Massachusetts in 2006. She is a social worker and physical fitness coach.
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