HAFTR Highlights

Terror hits close to home


Thanksgiving has passed and all the turkeys are re-populating. Hanukkah is here and all the potatoes are scared stiff. Each year Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) High School does something special to celebrate Hanukkah.

From color war to assemblies, we always have a fantastic time. This year remains a mystery, but rumor has it that color war will grace the hallways, pitting each grade against each other. What is known is that on Thursday, Dec. 10, the commissioned menorah that was built at the beginning of the school year was lit and officially dedicated. The menorah is built from Kassam rockets that were launched from Gaza into Sderot, Israel. As mentioned in a previous column, David and Debra Segal and their daughter Danielle and her husband, Jason Bokor, commissioned Israeli artist, Yaron Bob, to build the unique menorah, “Darkness into Light,” for HAFTR High School. It will be permanently displayed on the front lawn of the high school.

Former HAFTR student killed

On Nov. 19, Ezra Schwartz was murdered. Ezra was an 18-year-old from Massachusetts who was learning in a yeshiva in Israel this year. After delivering food to soldiers, he and his group boarded a bus to travel to their next act of kindness: helping to build a park dedicated to victims of terror. Ezra was sleeping with his head against the window, next to his best friend and roommate, Jason Geller.

A terrorist drove by with a gun and targeted Ezra’s head, killing him instantly. Jason saw Ezra slouch over and tried to hold his shirt to the wound. Geller came out of the accident almost unscathed physically, with minor cuts from glass shards. Jason is a HAFTR High graduate from Woodmere.

He visited HAFTR shortly after the attack to speak to the seniors about what had transpired. “I cannot comprehend that such a thing can occur, especially to someone so close to me personally,” said Nery Braver, a senior at HAFTR who has been friends with Jason for a longtime.

Upon hearing the news that Jason was aboard a bus that was attacked, Nery tried to contact him. When Braver finally received the news that his friend was okay, “I immediately felt relieved,” he told me. “When Jason came to HAFTR I went up to him and gave him a huge hug. I am so thankful that Jason is here with us.”

Ezra’s funeral was live streamed in HAFTR’s auditorium, which was open to the community. Judaic Studies teachers also guided students in composing letters of condolence to Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz and their family. We hope that the condolence letters provided comfort to the Schwartz family. We mourn for Ezra and all of the unfortunate victims of terror.