On Thursday, Mar. 17, about 300 people gathered at Bnai David-Judea on Pico for a service to remember the Fogels, the five members of a single family brutally killed in the West Bank settlement of Itamar just six days earlier.
A place to mourn, a chance to feel supported and comforted by one’s community and a place to pray: Those were the three needs that Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of Bnai David-Judea said the ceremony was intended to fulfill.
By and large, that’s how it went. “This week, we are all part of one giant shiva,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein told the crowd of mourners. Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, clearly had the support of the crowd. His speech provoked three separate rounds of applause, the only clapping heard on an otherwise somber evening. And the ceremony itself was bookended by the day’s afternoon and evening prayer services.
There was a bit of first-hand remembrance, too. Like many of the speakers, Shlomo Mirvis, the Israeli emissary to Los Angeles of the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth movement, intoned the names of all five members of the Fogel family—Udi, Ruth, Yoav, Elad, Hadas. But Mirvis, who was the driving force behind the ceremony, paid special attention to Udi Fogel, the father of the family.
Mirvis knew Udi Fogel personally; they had attended the same pre-army preparatory program.
“People definitely appreciated him,” Mirvis said after the event. In his speech, he described Udi Fogel as quiet, and entirely dedicated to Israel and to his family. Fogel, Mirvis said, was also a committed educator. Just hours before he was killed with three of his six children, Udi Fogel’s house was filled with young Bnei Akiva members, celebrating Shabbat. “He loved working with young kids,” Mirvis said. “He was a very devoted to education.”
Many parents brought their children at the synagogue on Thursday evening, even if it was hard to explain the grim reason for their being there. “They cannot even comprehend the story,” Gal Ben-Naim said of his sons. He held Ari, 3, in his arms, and tried to keep Yonatan, 11, and David, 8, to stop horsing around in the entryway.
The older Ben-Naim boys steered well clear of the five easels, each of which displayed a large-format photo of a member of the Fogel family.
“David asked me, ‘How come these kids are smiling and we’re here? These kids are smiling and we’re mourning,’” Ben-Naim said. “He cannot comprehend that these kids are gone.”
“I told them, ‘Something horrible and horrifying happened to a family in Israel.’”