In Memory of Ezra

I cannot put into words the experience I had at Ezra Schwartz’s funeral today. I have never felt so sad and helpless.

I left my house at 6:30 AM to attend Ezra’s funeral with my friend Chloe. We headed to Boston to attend the funeral of a boy that we never had the privilege of meeting. On the bus ride to Boston, I kept thinking about why I was going to a funeral of a boy I had never met. I thought about it and I realized I had a responsibility as a Jewish-American student who shares passions similar to those of Ezra.

When I arrived at the Temple, there were so many emotions inside of me. I didn’t actually believe that I came to Boston to attend the funeral of Ezra, who was murdered in cold blood this past Thursday. As I exited the bus, the number of people at Ezra Schwartz’s funeral was uncountable — it was the biggest crowd. Thousands of people filled the space inside the Temple and surrounded the windows of the large social hall.

The most difficult yet inspiring part of the funeral was what Ezra’s beloved family, friends, and mentors shared with the kahal. Ezra’s dad spoke first — that is when the tears started pouring down my cheeks. His father spoke so beautifully about his son — he was a good friend, an amazing brother to his three younger brothers and older sister, and a joy to those who were privileged to know him.

For me, the most painful person to listen to was the Rosh Yeshiva of Ashreinu, the Yeshiva in which Ezra had been enrolled in these past few months in Israel. The Rosh Yeshiva spoke with a helplessness and passion that touched me and made me tremble. He spoke about Ezra’s unique traits, as did the rest of his family members and friends. His shaky voice couldn’t quite figure out how to put everything that happened these past four days into a speech at Ezra Schwartz’s funeral. He struggled to find answers to the atrocity that occurred to his “son” in his Yeshiva. He questioned God and yelled and said “Enough!” His cry to God and to humanity was similar to mine that I have been struggling to deal with for a while. Ezra is a “kadosh”; he studied Torah, did acts of hesed and was murdered because he was a Jew. Evil murdered him as it murdered the Litmans.

As he tried to find answers to the questions we all are facing now, he said he managed to come up with one. Ezra’s joyful character and love for Judaism is what we need to honor his legacy. The rabbi also mentioned that the Litman family postponed the daughter’s wedding to this upcoming Thursday night and vowed to continue in its festivities. They also invite all of Israel. Terrorism will not and can not stop the Jewish peoples’ simchas.

When the service concluded, we all began to walk towards the pavement where the coffin was being lifted and carried to bring to the burial site. As I watched Ezra’s fellow Yeshiva friends who flew out with Ezra from Israel and his devastated family, I promised myself to continue to fight against terror and continue to pursue my love for Eretz Israel and Am Yisrael.

While we still are trying to look for the answers to this tragic situation, we will honor Ezra’s legacy.

Ezra — you will be dearly missed.

About the Author
Ilana Stein is a junior at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School. She is a passionate advocate for the State of Israel. Ilana feels deeply connected to the land of Israel, and one day hopes to make aliyah and join the rest of her family.