They murdered my friend Chezi today. His crime? Riding the #19 bus in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus once taught that people believe that those who die young are somehow "marked" to die young, but that luckily that "doesn't affect me, because I am obviously not marked." So we delude ourselves into a false sense of eternal life. Rabbi Pinkus proved that fact with his own life when he died tragically in a car accident not long after.
Chezi wasn't "marked," either. He was vital, dynamic, healthy, enthusiastic, always laughing and bringing others to laugh. The shock of Chezi no longer alive is compounded by the shocking way that he died, murdered in an instant while on a bus, along with 10 other beautiful, innocent and beloved souls.
Chezi was 41 and from Toronto. He made Aliyah to Israel eight years ago, and we were neighbors in the city of Betar Ilit. Last year his wife gave birth to their seventh beautiful child.
What the bomber didn't know was that if his goal was to render maximum damage, to take out an accomplished and beloved Jew, then he found his mark in Chezi.
Chezi was responsible for helping hundreds of "at-risk" teens as a social worker.
He didn't know that Chezi was responsible for helping hundreds of "at-risk" teens as a professional social worker and special ed counselor. For sure he never heard about the last initiative Chezi was so enthusiastic about: a new organization providing support for abused men. He never knew Chezi wrote a newspaper column ("Chezi's Corner") and hosted a radio show that focused on helping kids and sometimes fighting terrorism. He never knew that Chezi's singing voice was so beautiful it could make you cry, and how Chezi hosted an annual songfest in his Sukkah.
Bitter irony: At the start of this terror war Chezi and I had formed an organization -- "Security before Tragedy" -- to pressure the Israeli government to do more to protect civilians from terror attacks. Chezi wrote: "When we look at a miraculous escape from a deadly attack and breathe a sigh of relief, we lose the war on terrorism. When they fire to kill, they make their intentions clear. They will try again."
Every year Chezi would underwrite an annual lecture in memory of his father, where it was always moving to hear the love and respect for his departed father.
Everyone loved Chezi, and it seems that just about everyone knew him.
Everyone loved Chezi, and it seems that just about everyone knew him. Last week when he and I were walking past a hotel in Jerusalem, the concierge ran out and hand-delivered him a newspaper as a little gift.
He was a very devoted husband and father. Two days before Chezi was killed, his wife completed the year of mourning after her father's passing. Chezi, knowing it would be a hard day for her, booked off his appointments and spent the day at home with her. The day before his murder, he saw a sandwich at home and thought his daughter forgot it. So he took a bus to her school only to subsequently learn it was not hers anyway. He responded in typical Chezi fashion, “That's fine; I wanted her to know how much I love her.”
We will cry this Purim when we think of the town's most colorful clown, who used to walk through the streets delivering gifts of food with his kids. We loved Chezi because he was a lot of fun, full of life, and forever ready with a joke and a piece of wisdom. Last week Chezi and his wife Shifra were with me on the bus, along with their one-year-old baby. We were all laughing at his usual jokes about the lax attitudes of Israelis, the national habit of believing that if we ignored the threats they would cease to exist through the strength of our desire.
And now Shifra is a widow with seven fatherless souls.
Above all, Chezi took responsibility when no one else did.
The Torah portion read a few days before Chezi was slaughtered spoke about Moses killing an Egyptian taskmaster who had been abusing a Jewish slave. We are told very little about Moses' life other than this short episode, and suddenly we see God choosing Moses as the leader of the nascent Jewish people.
From here we see why Moses was chosen. When he saw the suffering of his brothers, he could not hold himself back. Knowing full well that killing an Egyptian meant risking his own life, the end of his luxurious lifestyle in the palace, and likely exile forever, still Moses did not hesitate. He took action to stop the injustice in the only way possible. God saw that here was a person who cared and took responsibility for others.
Chezi was a true disciple of Moses. When Palestinian thugs were stoning dozens of cars daily on their commute home to our city of Betar, and the army was not responding, Chezi turned to action, driving through the streets with a megaphone sticking out of my car, hosting meetings for people who cared, raising money and organizing rallies to cry out for the army to do what it could do -- and eventually did do -- to protect us.
Chezi felt deeply the pain of every Jew. When he discovered that hundreds of troubled boys had virtually no resources to help them, he set up a hot-line, found volunteers, and created a national network to support them.
That's what I really loved about Chezi: he cared. He cared enough to get angry. When he saw that the security situation at our daughters' school was appalling, and everyone was silent, he yelled about it. It ate away at him. He couldn't lull himself to sleep like most of us. He got mad.
Chezi would be really mad now, if he was alive. He'd be mad enough to demonstrate about the bombing of bus #19. Years ago, people would be crying fasting and in shock at such a thing. But this is the situation of the Jewish people today -- that we have lost this ability to feel. Chezi decried this laxity. He warned us against falling into "numb acceptance" of terror attacks.
After every terror attack, Chezi would go to as many funerals as he could, even though he didn't know the victims personally -- just to cry.
It is a step toward the final redemption when we will be forced to cry out. It seems that the time has finally come to get mad and to cry. For Chezi and his wife and kids.
The Goldberg Family needs your support.
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Read a stirring article written by Chezi Goldberg: "If You Don't Cry, Who Will?"