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Community Making Sense of 7 Senseless Deaths

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By Sarina Roffé

Gabriel Sassoon had to eulogize 7 of his 8 children.No father should have to eulogize his child. Gabriel Sassoon had to eulogize 7 of his 8 children.

“Why seven? Seven beautiful lilies,” cried their anguished father, Gabriel Sassoon, during his eulogy. “So pure. So pure.” Thousands of mourners, including the chief rabbi of Israel, attended the emotional service in Jerusalem, as anguished cries came from the crowds.

The caskets, small and large, were lined up in a row, their bodies washed and prepared for burial in white shrouds.

Words cannot express the horrific and devastating loss of the seven angelic children of Gabriel and Gayle Sassoon on Saturday, March 21, 2015. The children were laid to rest in the western hills of Jerusalem, near their former home in Har Nof. They had moved to Midwood in 2013.

A fire had spread quickly through their Midwood home, taking the seven children – four boys and three girls – to heaven. The loss devastated the family and the community, as the news spread as quickly as the fire had, quickly, throughout the world, making international headlines.

Gayle (Gila bat Siporah Frances) Jemal Sassoon, daughter of Fran and Freddie Jemal, and her 14-eyar-old daughter Siporah (bat Gila), jumped from a window and barely survived the fire and were hospitalized in critical condition.  Gaby Sassoon was attending a religious conference in Manhattan and not at home for Shabbat. He did not learn of the fire and the death of his children until the Shabbat ended.

Seven Torah observant children perished. The daughters were: Eliane bat Gila, 16, ‘A”H; Rivkah bat Gila, 11, ‘A”H; and Sara bat Gila, 6, ‘A”H. The sons were: David ben Gila, 12, ‘A”H; Yeshua ben Gila,’10, A”H; Moshe ben Gila, 8, ‘A”H; and Ya’akob ben Gila, 5, ‘A”H.

The Brooklyn funeral took place at Shomrei Hadas Chapels on Sunday, March 22 to mourn the loss of these seven angels, students at Yeshivah Ateret Torah. The loss of so many children from one family had mourners shaking in disbelief.

“I want to ask my children forgiveness. I did my best and my wife did her best. Please, everybody, love your child, love your children, love others’ children… understand them, don’t negate them,” he said.

At the end of the service, a shofar was blown as is Sephardic minhag.The bodies were flown to Israel for burial at Har Hamenuhot, the Mount of Rest, near Har Nof. The chief Rabbi of Israel attended the funeral.

In the meantime, community groups and social service organizations joined hands to help the community understand and come to grips with this tragedy and support the family.