The sudden death of Porter Ranch 14-year-old Aria Doherty has had an impact on the Temple Ahavat Shalom (TAS) community. On March 19, middle school and high school students who knew Doherty, who died one day earlier after huffing cleaning supplies, gathered at Ahavat Shalom in Northridge to process their loss.
Doherty’s parents said Doherty, an eighth-grade student at Alfred B. Nobel Middle School in Northridge, went into cardiac arrest after inhaling a can of computer duster, according to a report from CBS Los Angeles.
Doherty was not Jewish and not a member of TAS, but many high school students whose families are members of TAS were classmates with Doherty at Nobel, according to Rabbi Barry Lutz of TAS.
TAS decided to reach out and offer support to these kids, Lutz said.
“We sent out an email to all parents and posted on all our Facebook pages saying that we were aware that this happened and thought it was very important they bring their kids to school so that they can be together, be here as a community, so we could respond to the grief we knew they were feeling and deal with the trauma that we knew many of them were certainly experiencing,” Lutz said.
Approximately 150 students—some from TAS high school religious program and some not—visited the synagogue on Tuesday night and participated in grief counseling with a Los Angeles Unified School district social worker and with a psychologist and took part in a discussion with residents of Beit T’Shuvah, a Culver City rehabilitation clinic.
Doherty’s mother, Carolyn, was among those who went to the synagogue on Tuesday, joined by Doherty’s older sister. Carolyn’s relationship with Ahavat Shalom stems from her having helped with the choreography of the synagogue’s Purim shpiel.
Lutz did not know Doherty, who was active in Nobel's drama department, but she attended b'nai mitzvahs of her peers from TAS. Fanny Arana, a TAS high school teacher and the theater arts director at Nobel Middle School, broke the news to TAS staff about Doherty's death.