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At Shoshi Stern’s Funeral

At Shoshi Stern’s Funeral

How do you say goodbye to your 12-year-old daughter?


As a parent there is one fear that is so terrifying we don’t even allow ourselves to think about it for more than a second: What would we do if we lost our child? How could we possibly cope and continue living? The instant the thought crosses our mind we quickly clench our eyes and shake the thought out of our head.

Shoshi SternTwo days ago in Florida, Shoshi Stern a"h, 12-year-old beloved daughter of Rabbi Mike and Denise Stern, was struck by a car while skateboarding. It’s with an incredibly sad and heavy heart that I write that she died from her injuries. Mike Stern has been one of my closest friends for well over 20 years. He and Denise have literally had thousands of people in their home for Shabbat and anyone who knows them can testify to the fact that they give continuously to anyone and everyone who crosses the threshold of their doorway.

When the email came that Shoshi was killed I had the urge to delete it, to make it go away so it wouldn’t be true. It was a terrible feeling, one I can only characterize as dread. Please, please, make this not true. I knew that it was. I bought the ticket, went through the motions of the day, and got on the plane to Boca Raton, all the while wishing that this wasn’t actually happening. For Mike and Denise, every parent’s worst fear had been realized. NO!!

I kept telling myself the truths of Judaism, that even though we could never understand, there is purpose and meaning in everything. Everything comes from God, and everything He does is for the ultimate good, even if we could never understand. Although I like to think I have faith, it felt like empty words running through my mind.

Then I arrived at the funeral.

It’s incredibly hard to see people you love in pain, let alone the worst pain imaginable.

I’ll never forget seeing Mike, Denise, and Shoshi’s siblings walk into the synagogue. There was great pain -- but the love, closeness, and strength they had was palpable and brought a sense of calm to us all. This was the worst moment of their lives, yet they were holding each other close and crying softly.

Shoshi’s two brothers, Moshe 18, and Yossi 17, rose to speak, and shared words of Torah, love and appreciation of their sister with incredible faith and composure.

Then Mike stood up to say goodbye to his daughter. The moment he began speaking I understood that faith is something far beyond what I thought. There is no way that Mike could have spoken with such love, gratitude and perspective at his 12-year-old daughter’s funeral without a level of understanding that comes from something infinitely beyond the intellect. He spoke from his heart and from his soul. His words lifted us out of our smallness and reconnected us to a sense of God and why we are on this earth.

Mike shared how he was grateful, truly grateful that they had the privilege of having the gift of Shoshi for 12 years.

Every word he said cut straight through us. “Please, support each other, support your rabbis, your community, your synagogues.” There was not one word about his personal needs or pain, only words asking for us to give to each other. Mike spoke to each of his children and to his wife, saying how proud he was of them. He showed us in the most obvious way what a parent is supposed to be.

Through Mike's words and actions, God was sanctified yesterday in that synagogue, a huge Kiddush Hashem.

There are many things about the funeral and burial that will stay with me the rest of my life, and I don’t think I’m alone. I learned later that at the hospital, Denise implored the police officer to tell the driver of the vehicle that killed Shoshi not to blame himself. She told the officer to tell him they were a family of faith and knew that this was ultimately something from beyond him.

At the grave, Denise covered Shoshi’s grave with such love. She told me later it was the last thing she would ever be able to do for her daughter, and she wanted it to be perfect for her.

Shoshi’s death and funeral is sad beyond words, but I’m not coming home the same person as when I left yesterday. I got a new perspective of what faith actually means.

You can contribute to her memorial fund at

You can send your condolences to the Stern family using the comment section below.

April 16, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 99

(96) Thomas Schumacher, November 13, 2014 7:02 AM

Thank you Rabbi Levine, for this example of faith and love

Thank you for your love and support of your friend and so many others in great need.

(95) dalya blum, July 7, 2013 10:02 PM

she was an amazing friend i was one of her closest me noa berman yakira rosen and so on its been to months already and i still cant belive it my mind is still on this topic i still visit the sterns and every time i cum home with a new shoshie braclet i have pics of her up on my walls i have this song that gose " and i would do it for you for you MABEY IM NOT MOVEING ON BUT ILL LVE YOU LONG AFTER YOUR GONE " and i look at her pic every time i hear that song but i just say shes taking a nap and isnt aking up until masheah cums wich is soon i feel her death gets us closer to masheach cause we want to see her so badley that were doing more mitzvot and were getting ther i miss her so much me and noa noa is her best friend every week at her house every time OH B RIGHT THERE TALKING TO SHOSHIE me and shoshie planed a surprise party for her she walk al the way to our side in a tutu A TUTU! she was the funneist spunkeyeist funest girl ull ever meet and i cant wat to see her agin

(94) Rob Kabel and Reut Vaanunu, May 6, 2013 9:32 PM

Baruch Dayan Haemet

Our hearts are broken. We just came across this news and have both cried so much thinking about your pain. It's been a long time since we have been in touch but our prayers and love are with you. We both have many great memories from Philly. Reut sends her love. Rabbi I have many memories from your time in Philly. We have always been your fans. May G-d comfort you at such a difficult time. We are here for you if there is anything we can ever do.

(93) Yaakov Yisroel Wenglin, May 2, 2013 11:46 PM

May Hashem comfort you


May Hashem comfort you among the other mourners of Tziyon and Yerushalayim.

I just read the articles and listened to the eulogy -- my eyes are still tear-filled. Thank you for helping us see that a Jew can find the right emuna and strength. May Hashem help you continue forward.

(92) yisroel margulies, April 26, 2013 3:38 PM

Just heard

No words.
May the Al-mighty always give you the strength to continue your amazing work for klal Yisroel. You'll always be in our tefillos. Always.

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