Remembering the Sassoon Children
These seven beautiful children were my next door neighbors.
I just returned from the saddest funeral I've ever attended – burying seven pure souls. These beautiful children were my next door neighbors until they moved to New York a year and a half ago. My children played with them all the time. Our girls went to the same school. I still can picture David and Shuey (the name affectionately given to Yehoshua) reading on my couch on Shabbat afternoon and little Sarah (she was 4 at the time) holding my daughter's hand and skipping.
I remember when David, Shuey, and my son received new walkie-talkies and intercepted some random person's conversation. Just this past Shabbat afternoon, a few hours before hearing the horrible news, my oldest daughter told my wife, "If Rivka would still be living on the block we would be making a camp together for the week before Pesach like we did two years ago."
I'm devastated. We are all devastated. There are no words to describe the pain; we cannot begin to wrap our heads around this. People on the block cannot look at each other in the face. The pain is too overwhelming.
Gabby and Gail Sassoon are incredible parents. These children received so much love and attention. Look at their beaming faces. They did a fantastic job ensuring that their children were healthy and thriving. The family was an incredible unit always playing together and enjoying each other's company. They were each other's world. But what was so unique was that the parents allowed everyone to be part of their unit, to the extent that Mrs. Sassoon bought a larger C shaped couch so that children outside of the family could have room to sit on it.
And the Sassoon children were extremely inclusive of others. They were always sharing their new books, toys, and games. Even when they weren't home, they would let their friends come over and read the new books. Every Shabbat, the Sassoon kids organized games for all the other kids on the block while Mrs. Sassoon was distributing cut-up fruit to all the children.
In his heartbreaking eulogy given with superhuman strength and faith, Gabby Sassoon charged us to recognize that the entire Jewish People are one unit and that we should all love one another.
At the end of Gabby's eulogy he said that it's too much for him to speak about each child individually and that someone else would do it. That didn't end up happening, so I asked some of the children on the block if they could share some thoughts about their wonderful friends.
Many of the neighbors spoke about the children in a general sense. They described the children's talent evident in the beautiful paintings by Eliane, Tziporrah, Rivka, David, and Yehoshua lining the walls of the Sassoon home.
Their daughter Eliane was always happy for others, never jealous, and made sure to show her happiness for her friends' accomplishments and successes. She went out of her way to help others, often behind the scenes and never expected any credit for it. She was a very loyal friend and everyone knew they could trust her with their secrets. She was extremely responsible, devoted to her siblings, and had a zest for life.
Rivka was full of life, fun, outgoing, and sensitive towards others. She used her positive energy to make others happy. My daughter said that Rivka was the one to introduce her to the other girls on the block when we moved here. She was always volunteering to look after the children when her mother would go out for errands. Very often the older sisters would join their mother for errands and Rivka would offer to stay at home to watch the other kids. She was sensitive and mature beyond her years.
David, the leader of the Sassoon brothers, was very mature and level headed. He was a peacemaker, always happy to help things work out. At the same time, he was a regular relaxed child who was able to be so good with much ease.
Yehoshua was incredibly creative and always carried himself with a smile. He would include all the other children in his newest creative idea or project.
Moshe was curious and sweet. He looked up to his big brothers and was always happy to join their adventures with the other boys on the block, but he was happy to play with anyone and therefore everyone felt comfortable playing with him.
All the little girls on the block loved playing dolls with Sarah. She herself was very much a doll of a little girl, sharing her toys with her friends. In fact, one neighbor commented how much she looked like a porcelain doll.
Although at the time that he lived next door Yaakov was only three years old, he stood with such a presence, straight and confident. And, just like his big siblings, he showed his politeness in other people's homes when playing with their children.
Everyone who knew the Sassoon family speaks so highly of them. They were a model family, a true Kiddush Hashem.
In the eulogy given in New York, Gabby asked of us, "Please everybody, love your child, love your student, love the other children. That's all that counts, understand that." Reflecting on the beautiful Sassoon children, we can realize just how much love and dedication can accomplish.
Please pray for the full recovery of Gila bas Francis and Tziporah bas Gila.
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