I woke up two Sunday mornings ago to a text from my daughter in Israel asking me if I knew the person who was killed in the stabbing attack that day.
“What stabbing attack?” I asked her.
Her next text was: “His name is Ari Fuld.”
I couldn’t believe it. Ari Fuld?
My MTA classmate who grew up near me in Queens? It must be another Ari Fuld.
Israel is small but what are the odds? There are probably other Ari Fulds.
So I went online and confirmed what my daughter told me. It was the Ari I knew.
I spent much of Sunday reading the news reports and later on in the day, watched the livestream of the late-night levaya in Efrat. In the 48 hours since, I have read and viewed more about Ari Fuld than I thought even possible. As part of that review process, my editors and I learned even more about what has been said on the web about Ari.
I also watched many of the videos that are accessible online by him on his Facebook page and elsewhere. Although I am in the Jewish media world today, I wasn’t really aware of just how engaged Ari was..and how many videos he posted. Wow.
Every video I saw had some sort of tachlis, a purpose. For myself, my favorite videos were the ones of him grilling before Shabbat on his porch/mirpeset, and sharing a short and easy d’var Torah. I can’t fully explain why I liked those the best; I just did.
Ari and I were never close friends but we had known each other fairly well since our elementary school and day camp days and he was always strong-willed, strong-minded, self-confident, and Israel-oriented from a very young age. He also was never afraid of anyone or anything and became a karate black belt at a very early age. He graduated MTA with me in 1991 and never really came back to the U.S. after graduation, making aliyah shortly after. He was among the first in our graduating class to make aliyah (of nearly 30 classmates today) and unfortunately, he is also the first from our class to be niftar. To our classmates and I, Ari was practically the epitome of the tough, battle-tested, IDF-trained, American oleh who fully acclimated to Israel and embraced his adopted country with a full heart.
He visited me in The Jewish Link’s offices in the last few years when he was visiting his many friends and family members who live here and the main thing I can remember of our conversation is that he was happy for me that I had started The Link and that it was doing well. I recall we also spoke about what he was doing in Israel and all of his Israel advocacy and IDF support work. He was involved in so many unique projects aimed at supporting Israeli soldiers on the grassroots level, it was hard to keep them all straight.
Ari has been referred to as a hero, a true gibor, in these past few days and he truly was. The way he died only after running after and shooting his attacker solidified the image of Ari that we all had of him as a true Jewish hero and is probably the way that Ari himself would want to be remembered.
Ari, we will miss you and we hope and pray that you will continue pushing for the Jewish people and the land of Israel in the world to come—as strongly as you did here in this world.
By Moshe Kinderlehrer, co-publisher of The Jewish Link