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Captain Ron Afrimi

Our hearts have been broken so many times since October 7. It has become abundantly clear that the world does not understand our pain. There is no Jew in the world that has slept well at night since that fateful day. We have spent so much time checking our phones to see the fate of those kidnapped. Mothers killed, their babies ripped from their arms and taken into Gaza. It feels eerily like one of the lamentations from Tisha B’av. We never thought it could happen in the modern world.


Captain Ron Afrimi


Now our sleep has been disrupted by the pictures of young Jewish men of the IDF. These fallen soldiers have paid the ultimate price in the defense of their Jewish brothers and sisters. Every day we pray not to see another name added to this list. These are our sons. These are our grandsons. These are our brothers. These men are husbands and fathers. The pain is so palpable and deep that it is almost insurmountable. Seeing these smiling faces cut down in the prime of their life only because they dared to defend the Jewish people makes our hearts ache. 

This week we lost a member of our Aish Israel community. Captain Ron Afrimi grew up as a secular Israeli. In high school Ron majored in music and after graduation enlisted in the IDF. He became an officer in Yahalom, a special forces Engineering Unit. He loved commanding his men and contributing to the state of Israel.

This is how Omri, Ron’s brother, described him: “Ron loved education, and loved commanding soldiers who were everything to him. Every soldier who passed under him will remember and appreciate him forever. He trained many fighters, and after October 7 he enlisted in the reserves without hesitation and with a great sense of mission, commanded a team of reservists and acted at the peak of strength and determination. We will always remember him as a figure to be admired.”


Ron Afrimi and friends on the Aish rooftop


Ron also enlisted in Aish’s cutting edge Triumph Leadership Innovation (TLI) program. Aish TLI is a Jewish social impact program where young secular Israelis learn how to use their business skills to help the Jewish people. Over the course of a year they work as teams to develop innovative initiatives to strengthen Jews in the diaspora. It culminates with an end of the year “shark tank” type of contest which is judged by prominent Israelis in a major event on the roof of Aish. My favorite was the team which developed an app to help unaffiliated Jews learn Hebrew. 

Ron was a part of the Aish TLI community. He regularly attended classes with Rabbi Shimmy Kaufman in Tel Aviv. He especially loved the class based on Rav Noach Weinberg’s 48 ways. Rav Noach was famous for taking the Mishna in Pirkei Avos which lists 48 ways to improve oneself and using it as a springboard to teach Jews how to live a better, more qualitative life. Rabbi Kaufman was one of Rabbi Weinberg’s closest students and served as his right hand for many years before Rav Noach’s passing. So each week at a ‘lunch and learn’ in Tel Aviv, Rabbi Kaufman teaches in Hebrew how these techniques for living can inspire Jews to be their best selves. 


Ron Afrimi learning


Ron never missed this class. He loved hearing these nuggets of wisdom often closing his eyes to help him focus on Rabbi Kaufman’s words. The class has now been dedicated in his memory. We were all broken to hear about Ron’s death. Our hearts are one with the Afrimi family, especially his wife Gefen. I was thinking very much about Ron at my son’s wedding this past week. I generally don’t cross over to my personal family life in this email but I did want to note one particular aspect of my son Elie’s wedding to Sydney Freedman of which I was especially proud. 

At the end of a Jewish wedding we traditionally break a glass. This symbolizes that we are still shattered and broken that we no longer have the Temple in Jerusalem. Even in our greatest moment of happiness we realize that the Almighty’s house is still in ruins and we cannot have complete happiness until we are reunited with Him in his Home. Before breaking the glass, many sing the verse from King David’s Psalms about not forgetting Jerusalem. We felt that given the circumstances in which the Jewish nation finds itself, and in solidarity with my two nephews in the IDF who could not be at the wedding because they are currently in Gaza, we would read aloud the prayer for the welfare of our soldiers in the IDF. I asked a close friend, Eitan Agbashoff from Woodmere, NY if he would sing the prayer. By the end there was not a dry eye in the crowd. You can watch it here.


Rabbi Burg's son's wedding


Even in our greatest moment of joy we can never forget the sacrifice of Captain Ron Afrimi. A beautiful young man who, alongside pursuing his career, sought the wisdom of the Almighty. We can never forget the sacrifice that so many young Jews are making every day to ensure that the Jewish people are safe. In the history of the world there has never been a clearer battle between good and evil. So many in the world are giving a pass to murder, kidnapping of babies and even rape because the victims were Jews. My friends, we must stand side by side as a united Jewish Nation. We must love each other deeply and completely. We must pray to the Almighty to return the captives and put an end to the never ending hate that the Jewish people endure. May the Almighty grant us our most fervent wish for a world filled with peace.