When Rabbi Friedman returned to the Rambam Mesivta on Friday morning after his trip to Eretz Yisrael and visit to Har Nof, students gathered at a schoolwide assembly to hear an update on their fundraising efforts, which collected $30,000 for the victims of the massacre.
Mr. Ira Zlotowitz, who provided matching funds, also joined the assembly to congratulate the boys and to spur them on to the next project, raising money for the Seyf family, relatives of the Druze policeman who sacrificed his life to save others who were still in shul during the attack on Har Nof.
Rabbi Dovid Kupinsky, a brother of Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, who was murdered by the Arab terrorists, also joined the assembly and spoke to the talmidim. Rabbi Kupinsky spoke about the tremendous chesed his murdered brother was known for. “He would always get up early and daven k’vasikin on Shabbos so that he could walk over to another shul where there was to be a special simcha for a bar mitzvah or aufruf, to help set up in order to allow the ba’alei simcha to fully enjoy the event and not be burdened with the distractions and job of cleaning up,” he explained. He also said, “My brother also established a special gemach and used to schlep portable freezers to people’s homes to enable them to have more storage space when they were having family members over.”
Rabbi Kupinsky mentioned that he had spoken across the country in many various schools and shuls, and his goal was to inspire them to undertake a project to memorialize the kedoshim. He commended the boys by saying “Everything I am hoping others will do, you have already done. You have raised money for the family. You have provided them much chizuk, have undertaken a siyum mishnayos on Shas in their memory, and our family truly appreciates your efforts.”
Afterwards, Rabbi Friedman spoke to the boys about his experience meeting the families of the victims. His remarks are below.
Bullet holes, flickering yahrzeit candles and an emotional embrace awaited as I traveled to Har Nof with trepidation intending to visit the families of the victims of the terror who were murdered two weeks ago.
The bullet holes in the front door of the shul were evident as we ascended the steps. Upon entering, the candles reminded visitors of the four Kedoshim who were gunned down and hacked to death by ax-wielding and gun-toting Arab terrorists. The candles were placed in close proximity to the aron ha’kodesh, which was desecrated by bullet holes in its paroches and doors.
The embrace was the silent message of chizuk I received from Rav Nissan Kaplan, shlita, a paradigm of Torah and chesed, who has taken the lead in helping the distraught families whose lives will never be the same. Rav Kaplan walked me through the events of that horrific morning, stopping to show me a wooden door whose bottom section was excised by the chevra kadisha to bury its blood-stained remnant along with one of the Kedoshim.
Leaving the shul, we proceeded to visit the Goldstein family, whose father was brutally attacked with an ax and was home recovering from surgery, with his head still bandaged. His attitude, courage, and emunah are hard to describe. He said that he felt that he was not on a high-enough level to have been taken as a korban . . .
Rav Kaplan then took us to the Levine home, whose widow, Chaya, was an amazing pillar of strength. She expressed her thanks to the Jewish community around the world for the outpouring of support that she received and specifically asked me to thank the talmidim of Rambam for the fundraising efforts they undertook to express their support for the victims in Har Nof.
Mrs. Rothman, whose husband lies in a coma, had just returned home from a full day in the hospital when we arrived. We purposely kept the visit short but stayed long enough to convey the sentiment that Jews from all over the world were being mispallel for her husband’s refuah sheleimah.
Upon arriving at the home of Rebbetzin Goldberg, we found sefarim on the table awaiting the return of her husband, H’yd. Their presence was testimony to the lifestyle that he lived, one immersed in Torah and mitzvos.
The Kupinsky children smiled when my wife gave them a bag of lollipops, but the visit to their house clearly underscored the dimensions of the tragedy. Mrs. Kupinsky, who clearly was suffering due to the murder of her husband, offered us food and drink in the spirit of hachnassas orchim. Her commitment to Torah and halachah during the most trying of times was something hard to fathom.
The funds the boys raised which were later matched by the generosity of Mr. Ira Zlotowitz, were never intended to be distributed as ‘monetary’ disbursements. One can never make up for the loss of a son, husband, father, brother, or friend. The purpose of the funding was to provide a small amount of chizuk to the families of the Kedoshim and the victims of the terror attack that impacted all of Klal Yisrael. After visiting the families and witnessing firsthand their commitment to a life of Torah, the chizuk we received far outweighed whatever we attempted to impart.