July 24, 2003
Yeshiva Gedolah of Los Angeles Graduate,Dies at 22
Ariel Avrech died of complications from severe pulmonary fibrosis on July 1. He was 22.
"He was incredibly learned," said Avrech's father, Emmy-winning screenwriter Robert Avrech ("The Devil's Arithmetic"). "I always learned from him. Our roles were reversed. He was also very funny and had a very dry, ironic sense of humor."
A Pico-Robertson resident, Avrech was in dire need of a living lobar lung transplant. Unfortunately, a worldwide organ search, facilitated by Jewish Healthcare Foundation Avraham Moshe & Yehudis Bikur Cholim, was unsuccessful.
Avrech's first brush with a life-threatening disease came at age 14, when he endured massive chemotherapy to eradicate a brain tumor. In early 2002, the Yeshiva Gedolah of Los Angeles graduate was walking up a hill at Baltimore's Ner Yisroel campus, where he was continuing his studies, when he experienced difficulty breathing. By May 2002, doctors learned that the chemotherapy that conquered his cancer left him with severe pulmonary fibrosis.
Avrech's condition worsened in the last year. In recent months, he could only breathe with the assistance of an oxygen tank. He also took steroids to stabilize his condition, which deteriorated drastically by April, when he was not emitting enough carbon dioxide. Avrech spent his last three months hospitalized on a respirator in intensive care.
"He was never confronted with the fact that there was no hope," said Avrech's mother, Karen Avrech. "He lapsed into unconsciousness."
"He really suffered horribly in the last few months," she continued, "but he never complained. He always maintained that he would make the best of what had happened to him. He was very hopeful and very grateful to his parents and to his doctors."
Karen noted that her son had a passion for many subjects: physics, cosmology, cooking, history, literature and, especially, politics. Avrech enjoyed listening to KABC radio personality Larry Elder, who visited Avrech at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in May.
Most of all, Avrech was deeply committed to his faith and his community.
"One of the remarkable things about Ariel was that he was able to bridge the boundaries that normally separate the religious community," Robert said. "Ariel was very close with the Orthodox, but also close with the modern Orthodox."
In November, Avrech told The Journal that he maintained a positive mental state by studying Torah with a study partner.
"When I go for a day without it, I feel like I'm not living a real life," he said.
Services for Avrech were held at Young Israel of Century City. Avrech is survived by his parents, Robert and Karen; and sisters, Leda and Aliza.
The Avrech family has formed the Ariel Avrech Foundation. Donations in his memory should be made out to "G'mach Fund Young Israel Century City." For more information, contact (310) 273-6954. For information on organ donation, visit Halachic Organ Donor Society at www.hods.org .