It’s odd how the extinguishing of one light can darken an entire world.
Chazal (our Sages) compare the value of one individual life to that of a world, and I finally understand the words.
My friend Rose Lubin zt”l was murdered in cold blood on November 6th, 2023, while protecting her country from the ever-looming threat of terrorism and anti-Semitism. She died a hero, and yet, almost two weeks later, I can’t make sense of it.
Rose, I can’t help but wonder what those final moments were like. Were you in pain? Where did your thoughts race to while you grappled with a 16-year-old kid with the biggest knife I’ve ever seen? I refuse to believe you went down without a fight.
Rose and I grew up in the same synagogue in Atlanta. While we didn’t go to the same school, we still went to the same youth groups, were friends with the same people, and snagged snacks from the same shul kiddush, only to sit in the hallway near the bathroom in a circle with our motley crew and hard-won booty. We talked about our weeks, about school, about everything under the sun, until we’d arbitrarily decide to go to someone else’s house to hang out.
I was definitely the late-comer to this party, having only moved to Dunwoody when I was 11, whereas the rest of the group had known each other from a young age. Despite this, I was welcomed with open arms, and often I felt like I had known my friend group forever. Rose let me know early on that she had big dreams of moving to Israel, of serving in the IDF and, regarding one of her dreams at 15, opening an Israeli-based natural supplements practice to find solutions to medical problems through the lens of alternative medicine (though she wouldn’t exactly have said it in those words). I admired her for her determination, her bold statements (fashion or otherwise) and her brilliant mind. I remember with equal clarity her obsession with Flipsee hats at 13 and her excitement in high school learning about debate and Latin. I have a vivid picture in my mind of Rose hanging upside down off my bed while I went through my closet for the umpteenth time, and her encouragement and honesty regarding my amateurish attempts to dress semi-fashionably.
Rose was the first person to take me to the gym. As a high school athlete, I probably should have been more familiar with the routine of going to work out, but I was shy and intimidated to go on my own. My friend not only gave me a tour of the facilities, but created a workout routine for me on the spot when I said I wasn’t sure how to use some of the machinery. It gave me the courage and strength to return and I became better because of it.
As a part of our shul’s teen programming, we had an all-girls supper club with our youth director, when we would discuss hot topic issues in Judaism while doing crafts or making food together. This was where Rose shone. We came from different religious backgrounds, and hearing her take on a Jewish idea I had always taken for granted left my head spinning with new thoughts based on what she had said. Sometimes, I would even text her afterwards, asking a question, and the next Shabbat in the hallway near the bathroom turned into a philosophical debate (her favorite kind of discussion).
I have roughly seven years of Shabbatot and adventures with Rose in Atlanta, and to sum them all up would take seven more years. What you need to know about Rose is that she was kind, brave, and resolute in following her dreams. She was funny, spontaneous, and idealistic. She never gave up on her Judaism and on striving for a better world. Never in my wildest nightmares did I imagine I would sob hysterically at her funeral, watching her coffin be carried past the nation she loved most, after defending her people and her country.
Now, all that’s left of our Shabbatot are memories and the ner neshama (memorial candle) I light for her every week since her death – a light that doesn’t come close to the illumination she brought into the lives of those who knew her. I try to keep going, to do mitzvot (good deeds) in her honor, but images from her funeral are seared into my retinas and my soul. Perhaps time will heal this, but I’m not so sure.
As I stare at the roses my sister-in-law bought for me in her honor, all I can say is thank you. Thank you, Rose, for everything you gave me and to the world. Thank you for being my friend, and I will miss you terribly. Thank you for growing up together with me and helping me become who I am today. May your memory be blessed, and may your legacy continue to shine light upon us all.