More than 1,000 mourn Sharon teen killed in West Bank
SHARON — A crowd of more than 1,000 mourners, mostly clad in black, gathered Sunday at a Jewish temple here for the funeral of Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old resident who was killed last week during a year abroad in Israel.
Schwartz’s parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends spoke at the two-hour funeral, which was held at Temple Sinai on Canton Street and broadcast on loudspeakers outside the house of worship.
“The bond we had will live forever,” said Ari Schwartz, Ezra’s father. “Some bonds can never be broken.”
Police estimated that about 1,000 people were inside the temple, which was filled to capacity well before the private funeral began at noon. Outside the temple, about 500 people braved cool temperatures and intermittent rain to hear loved ones remember Schwartz, who was described as a gregarious and compassionate young man who died a martyr for his Jewish faith.
Schwartz was killed in the West Bank last Thursday after a van he was traveling in came under attack by a Palestinian gunman.
The remarks from Schwartz’s family, Jewish religious leaders, and friends at the funeral underscored the dual personal and public nature of the killing.
Family members, high school friends, and athletic coaches remembered an inquisitive and silly Schwartz, who was passionate about his love for Israel, helping others, and the New England Patriots.
Schwartz’s older sister Mollie called him a role model for their three brothers, named Hillel, Elon, and Avi, who were at times overcome with emotion during the ceremony.
But in the nature of his death, Schwartz has also become an international symbol for the human cost of an escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has claimed more than 100 lives since September.
On Friday, a spokesman for the US Department of State condemned the attacks that killed Schwartz and called the continued attacks in the region outrageous.
In a statement released Thursday, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston said Schwartz had a bright future that “was erased by an act of senseless, seething hate.”
Ruth Schwartz, Ezra’s mother, said she spoke to her son on Wednesday morning, one day before he was killed.
She said her son was excited about learning more about his faith and spending time in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. “[Ezra] told me he felt safe and that he was not nervous,” she said.
The day he was killed, Schwartz and other students who were studying abroad delivered food to Israeli soldiers stationed nearby, according to his mother.
Before the funeral, two friends who spent a summer traveling with Schwartz in a teen corps program in the United States said they were shocked and saddened by the news of his death.
Zachary Gross, a student at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, reflected on the lessons that Schwartz taught him during their time together.
“[Schwartz] taught me to be outgoing, and always have a positive attitude,” Gross said.
Max Schnaper, who was a staff member on that same US trip, called Schwartz’s death a tragedy.
“It’s a sad day, very sad,” Schnaper said. “He taught me to just live a little and enjoy the little things. Just to be happy.”
Jeremiah Link, a student at Boston University who knew Schwartz from a summer camp, said he had a special positivity and the ability to make people around him happy.
“He was definitely a mischievous camper, always at the center of something or other, and it only made people love him more,” Link said in a text message.
This sentiment was repeated by Schwartz’s parents and sister. Schwartz was more than a varsity athlete, a scholar set to attend Rutgers University, or an older brother with a penchant for riff-raff, his family said.
He was also a teacher, a friend, and a budding young adult.
“Ezra, I’m so proud of you, and the person you’ve become,” his mother said. “So smart and so beautiful and so full of life.”
Mollie Schwartz, who said she was only older than Ezra by 21 months, called her slain brother her best friend and confidante.
In her remarks, Schwartz said that when the two siblings were growing up, they would often play a game called “Power Boy” and “Power Girl,” and execute secret missions throughout their home.
“You were my best friend. All I wanted was to be more like you,” Schwartz said about her brother.
She closed by recalling her final conversation with Ezra, where she was stressed over a chemistry class and he begged her to relax and be happy.
“I’m going to be happy for the both of us from now on,” Schwartz said at the funeral. “I promise.”
Even in death, a mission from Power Boy.