My Friend's Tragic Death in Costa Rica

January 2, 2018

3 min read


I went to camp with Ari Weiss. My friends and I can’t believe he’s gone.

This morning I woke up and found out that a friend of mine was tragically killed. Ari Weiss was with his family vacationing when their small plane crashed in Costa Rica. Ari, 16, was killed along with his parents, Leslie and Mitchell Weiss and his sister Hannah, 19. Bruce and Irene Steinberg were also killed, along with their three sons, Matthew, William and Zachary.

I got the terrible news early in the morning in Jerusalem where I am studying in the Gesher program at Aish HaTorah. Ari and I both went to Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, Georgia. My snapchat was flooded with messages from friends back home, everyone reeling in pain. All of my friends were posting about what a wonderful guy Ari is and how they will miss him dearly.

“Ari you were the one that cared, I miss you”

I sat staring at my phone, crying, and just couldn’t fathom how someone as young as Ari, who had so much to live for, could suddenly be gone.  Why did this have to happen to him? Even though it was the middle of the night in the US, throughout the world we were all connecting through our waves of grief.

Ari and his sister Hannah

Being part of a community, we all feel a gaping hole with Ari’s death, even those who weren’t so close to him.  I remember how Ari always cared for the people around him. I remember how we were playing a game of basketball and all the sudden someone got hurt. Everyone asked if the kid was okay but Ari was the one who took the time and care to walk him off the court. And then Ari actually left the game so he could sit with this kid and just be there for him so that he wouldn't have to be alone. While all of us went back to playing basketball, Ari chose to get out of himself and help a person in need.

And that wasn’t just a one-time occurrence. Ari was always going out of his way to help others and try to make people smile. Counselors come to camp hoping to impact campers in a positive way, but Ari did the opposite – he was an amazing camper who impacted the counsellors with his positive energy and zest for life. He affected his friends and family the same way, bringing happiness into people's lives.

As our community is coming together in grief, I’m thinking how I can somehow honor Ari and the something special he brought into so many people’s lives. I want to strive to be the type of guy Ari was. I want to be the guy who would leave a basketball game just to be there for someone. I want to be the guy who makes people smile. The guy who makes people feel like they're a part of something.

In honor of Ari, let’s all try to go out of our way to do something to make a person’s day better, to try inject more happiness in someone’s life. This way we can channel some of the unbearable pain of losing Ari into actions that bring light into the world, like Ari who was lighting up the world.

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