“They have killed innocents, wonderful young people who had no time to enjoy life and happiness,” Annette Herszkowicz said on Tuesday, as tears flowed.
Herszkowicz is the aunt of Ava Sandler, whose husband Jonathan and sons Gabriel and Arieh were three of the four murder victims. She spoke of the joy and happiness the Sandlers were enjoying as they began a life of academic and outreach activities in southwestern France.
“They were so happy.” said Herszkowicz.
On Sunday evening, she said, she had “exchanged blessings” with her sister, Ava’s mother, during a telephone call. Now, she said, she had no words to speak, no way to comfort her sister, or her niece. She has not spoken with them since the tragedy occurred.
Jonathan and Ava Sandler had returned to their native France from their home in Jerusalem only seven months ago. He returned to teach in Toulouse and to do kiruv – outreach – in the community.
At 30, he was already well known as a columnist in Kountrass, a Lithuanian charedi monthly newspaper distributed in France and Israel. He did outreach work as a volunteer for Shoresh, bringing Judaism to secular Jews.
Ava welcomed the move, becase it meant that she and her three children would be close to her mother. A Sephardi, Ava was raised in Paris. Jonathan, an Ashkenazi, studied in Toulouse before making aliyah. Several members of his family had survived Auschwitz, Herszkowicz said.
The Sandlers “were overjoyed about life, their children, and one another,” their aunt said. “Jonathan was scholarly, dedicated to enhancing Torah knowledge. They were reveling in their growing family, pleased with the birth of a little girl, following her two big brothers.”
Jonathan and his two sons were buried Wednesday in Israel.
The interview with Herszkowicz took place at a memorial service held in front of the French Consulate. Among those officiating at the event was Cantor Paul Zim of the Jewish Center of Fort Lee, who intoned El Malei Rachamim, the memorial prayer that plaintively calls for the souls of the departed to be comforted by God.
JointMedia News Service