May 28, 2024
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The third of Kislev, this year Thursday, November 19, marked a bittersweet occasion for the Rimel/Gantz family, residents of Teaneck, Chicago’s Jewish community, and Neve Tzuf in the Binyamin area. Exactly one year ago, four members of the Rimel family, father Ephraim, mother Tzippy, son Etai and infant Noam Rachel, were hit by an out-of-control car going 100 mph on Highway 443 as they were returning from celebrating the hanachat tefillin of a Teaneck family in Yerushalayim. Upon impact, Tzippy, 35, and Noam, just 3 weeks old, immediately lost their lives. Ephraim, 37, and Etai, celebrating his 12th birthday that day, were critically wounded. Their three other children, Leah, now 12, Avichai, now 8, and Harel, now 3, were safely at home when the accident occured.

In the aftermath of that horrific tragedy, heartfelt tributes poured out from both Israeli and American communities, whose lives had been impacted by the sweetness, optimism and genuinely caring spirit of Tzippy Rimel, z”l. In Neve Tzuf, Tzippy was seen by the youth as the upbeat adult with whom they “hung out” and shared ideas and dreams.

In her professional capacity as a teacher, Tzippy created a practice, now adopted in her memory by a program referred to as Keren Or, of reaching out each week to one child’s parents, reporting on one positive activity of that child during the preceding week. During their four-year stint in Chicago as shlichim through the YU/Torah MiTzion kollel program, the Rimels were renowned educators and role models who became pillars of the community through their many activities and devotion. Many in the Chicago community can attribute their decision to make aliyah to the example set by the Rimels.

In the aftermath of the indescribable tragic accident, Ephraim Rimel was left paralyzed from the waist down. He returned home, where his parents and in-laws help him run the household and care for his four young children. He visits Tel HaShomer Hospital several times a week for physical therapy.

Etai has undergone a marathon of hospitalizations this past year. Immediately following the accident, he was taken to Shaarei Tzedek Hospital in Yerushalayim where his situation looked dire. One month later, he opened his eyes and began his long journey. Etai is being treated in the ALYN Hospital, which specializes in pediatric rehabilitation.There he receives complete care and even schooling. He is able to spend Shabbatot at home with his family. He is showing slow but steady improvement. His keen sense of humor appears to be key to his recovery.

On Thursday, November 19, the Rimels marked two occasions, surrounded by devoted family and friends. In the morning at Shacharit, Etai was called up to the Torah as a bar mitzvah. He was able to recite the brachot and read an aliyah. The jubilation at his accomplishment and ensuing celebration outside the beit haknesset in Neve Tzuf was immeasurable

Later that day, friends and family proceeded to the local cemetery for a yahrzeit service in memory of Tzippy and Noam Rachel. At the azkara on Zoom attended by hundreds the previous evening, Ephraim concluded by addressing the American participants in English. He shared, “I would like to thank everyone in America who joined us in the middle of their work day to commemorate Tzippy. I know that she meant a lot to many of you. It has been very comforting to know that not only did you not forget Tzippy, as she was truly unforgettable, but that you still relate to her in your day-to-day lives. I would like to thank you for being there for us and being part of our extended family despite the physical distance between us.”

After Tzippy’s tragic petira, a GoFundMe campaign was organized, which raised significant funds from friends and strangers in Israel and America, to help secure the well-being of the family. Currently, a campaign in Israel called Metzifot Or, meaning “flooding with light,” as well as being a play on the name Tzippy, encourages bat mitzvah girls to bake tasty, hot cakes to bring to soldiers posted throughout the country. They bring hot soups in winter as well to faraway outposts to warm the hearts and stomachs of the young chayalim guarding our communities, much like Tzippy would do.

Teaneck resident Ruven Ellberger is determined to keep his cousin Tzippy’s “light” shining, especially as her yahrzeit will perennially be marked shortly before Chanukah. Having Zoomed in to the recent bar mitzvah celebration for Etai, Ellberger shared, “My cousin Tzippy was a ray of light, captivating all who met her. Her loss is tremendous. She met everyone with a smile or a joke. But she was so sensitive to people’s struggles and was not afraid to tackle serious issues, especially regarding the unity of the Jewish people and the connection to the Land of Israel. It was with this sentiment that we were so happy to participate in some way in Etai’s bar mitzvah. We pray for only simchas and more miracles for Etai, Ephraim and the entire Rimel and Gantz families.”

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