By Blair Jackson, for the Mitzpeh, @blairacudda
In the West Bank three weeks ago, Ezra Schwartz, an American student who was studying and volunteering in Israel, died in a terrorist attack.
An armed Palestinian motorist opened fire toward cars, including a van that 18-year-old Schwartz was in, near Alon Shvut, just two hours after a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Schwartz is the brother of University of Maryland freshman Mollie Schwartz and had connections to other students at this university.
After the attack, university President Loh sent out a statement for the university community. “Let us join together in extending our heartfelt condolences to Mollie and the rest of Ezra’s family,” he said.
Alyssa Goldsmith, a sophomore psychology major, met Schwartz on a six-week trip around the United States with a program called the United Synagogue Youth. “It was called USY on Wheels, and I was with him on a bus everyday. We were close, and have many memories together,” she said.
Benji Berg, a junior supply chain management major, lived in the same community as Schwartz and is close with his family. “[Ezra] was one of my sister’s close friends since they were little,” he said. Schwartz was the captain of his brother’s baseball team.
“Over the years, I spent time with Ezra playing wiffle ball in his backyard and watching him on the baseball field,” Berg said. “He was a great teammate and was always working to become better.”
Goldsmith was shocked when she heard of Schwartz’s death. “I was devastated for one of two reasons. I was devastated because I knew and was friends with him, but also because this was one of far too many terrorist attacks that occurs in Israel,” she said.
Events like this happen very often around the world, but while it usually seems like a foreign tragedy, Schwartz’s death raised awareness for students on campus.
“The fact that people from this campus knew him makes it seem more real in a way,” junior environmental science major Mitch Kessler said. “I hope it raises awareness not only in the Jewish community, but in the campus community as a whole.”
While Schwartz’s death was significant for the student community, Goldsmith said she still thinks the news did not reach everyone it should have. “There were many posts and many articles posted on Facebook about him,” she said. “My friends and other Jewish students have likely seen them, but that doesn’t guarantee that they have been distributed well.”
Rabbi Eli Backman of this university’s Chabad organized a bus trip for about 40 students from College Park to Temple Sinai in Sharon, Massachusetts, Schwartz’s hometown, for his funeral on Nov. 22.
Berg attended the funeral. “It was extremely emotional and unbelievable how many people came to show their support,” he said. More than 1,000 people attended, according to a Boston Globe report.
Goldsmith said she will always remember Schwartz for his character. “He was such a wonderful and kind person, and I knew that he always had people’s best interest at heart,” she said.
“He was so kind, easy to talk to and a role model for so many younger kids in our community,” Berg said.