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Hello Rabbi Matanky and the Academy family,

This is Zach Millunchick, class of 2010. I attend yeshiva in Ma’ale Adumim, and Rabbi Yaakov Don was father to two of my friends. One, two years younger than me, and one four. Both of them are amazing people: caring, happy, serious about who they are and what they’re doing. Rabbi Don would come to yeshiva weekly to learn with them. He had this deep, booming voice and joy-filled laugh that was immediately recognizable. A classic dati-leumi-from-the-seventies-mustache. Rabbi Matanky was right – this one hit close to home. In an hour I’m going to the funeral.

Please, as a family, continue to be there for us. Rabbi Matanky’s letter means a lot to me. And please, as a school and as Jews, don’t lose hope that we can make our world a better place. The only thing that gives me consolation in these tough times is a reaffirmation of who we are, “rodfei shalom,” those who yearn for peace, and that we affirm life and refuse to give in to the sanctification of death against which we are fighting.

Am Yisrael Chai.

May we merit to see the end of needless suffering and may we see the day in which God and His name will be one in the world.

This letter is in response to a message Rabbi Matanky shared following the murders last week. Below is the letter.

Dear Academy Family,

Today has been a very difficult day for the Jewish people as five innocent people were murdered in Israel by Arab terrorists, including the former shaliach Bnei Akiva of Toronto, Rabbi Yaakov Don, and gap year student, Ezra Schwartz, Hy”d.

I didn’t know either of them, nor any of the other of the victims. However, when the news broke, it hit very close to home. Not only because I have family who live not far from where the of the victims were gunned down, and not only because there are so many connections in our Jewish world, but because Ezra, z”l was the same age as our students and studying at a Ashreinu, where our students attend.

It’s hard to separate the pain we feel for the mourners with the fear that many of us feel for our loved ones in Israel, or for that matter, for our children who are headed there soon. I know that this particular terror attack, an American parent’s worst nightmare, has left many especially fearful.

The Sfat Emet in a drasha delivered over 100 years ago noted that this week’s parasha is the only one in the entire Torah that is not divided into paragraphs. Instead, Vayeitzei is one long paragraph, beginning with Yaakov’s departure from the Land of Israel and ending with his return more than 36 years later.

Explained the Sfat Emet that the reason for this was to convey Yaakov’s single-minded mission – to accomplish what needed to be accomplished in the Diaspora and then return whole and complete back to the land of his forefathers.

For thousands of years, our focus has been upon the Land of Israel, and for the past 67 years we have been privileged to have that land as our State. However, it is at times like this, that we must be unwavering, and single-minded in our commitment to the land, to the programs that our children attend, and to our personal connections to those who live there and those who visit.

As a community we extend our deepest sympathies to the families whose worlds have been turned asunder, and who will never again feel the warm embrace of their loved ones. In the days to come, we will be talking about the situation with our students, and tomorrow we will be gathering together as a school to mourn their loss and try to find ways to bring some meaning to this ongoing tragedy.

May they be comforted among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim.

With sorrow and best wishes for b’sorot tovot,
Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, dean

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