The shocking news of a tragic car accident in Israel two weeks ago that took the lives of two members of the Rimel family and critically injured two others has devastated the Jewish community in Israel and in America. Tzippi Rimel, a mother of five and beloved school teacher, and her newborn baby Noam Rachel, were killed when a speeding car struck them from behind, leaving her husband Ephraim and their eldest son Etai clinging to life.
News spread quickly, and the outpouring of support in Israel and from the global Jewish community has been truly astounding. A close friend of Tzippi’s, Batsheva Adamit, along with other community members, launched a campaign (www.helprimel.com) with the hope to raise $1.5 million to support the Rimel children through childhood. In just a week’s time, over $900,000 has been raised from donors in Israel, the United States and throughout the world.
The Rimels are a well-known family both in Israel and in America, specifically in Chicago where Ephraim was raised until his family made aliyah decades ago to Neve Tzuf. Back in 2010, Ephraim and Tzippi went to Chicago as shlichim (emissaries) for the YU/Torah MiTzion Kollel Program, where they were both educators and role models who quickly became pillars of the community, devoting their time to anything and anyone who needed them. They were a tremendous resource for those considering aliyah. Years later, many of Tzippi’s former students moved to Israel and immediately re-connected with her.
Ruven Ellberger, a cousin of Tzippi’s who lives in Teaneck, traveled to Israel for a shiva call and while there met many people from different walks of life, each recounting a special relationship with Tzippi, whom they considered both a teacher and a friend. “People ranging from age 14 all the way up to 80 came to pay their respects to someone whom they admired and truly connected with,” he said. One young man who was a former student of Tzippi’s recalled a Motzei Shabbat when he and a group of 16-year-old boys and girls went to Tzippi’s home to hang out because it was fun to be around her. “Tzippi had a unique way of touching the lives of everyone she encountered,” said Ellberger.
Ephraim, also a beloved teacher and administrator in the Ezra Youth Movement, is in serious condition, facing paralysis below the waist, and their eldest son Etai remains in critical condition. Their three other children, Leah (10), Amichai (8), and Harel (3) are being cared for by their grandparents who are coping with the tragic loss of their daughter and newborn granddaughter.
Yaakov Sheinfeld, who live in Teaneck, has always maintained a close relationship with Ephraim, his first cousin. The two share a brotherly connection, and despite living far away, make every effort to share in one another’s smachot. Regretfully, Ephraim and Tzippi were not able to attend the upcoming bar mitzvah celebration for Sheinfeld’s son, so Sheinfeld decided to bring the simcha to them. He, along with his wife Sari and their son Binyamin, went to Israel in honor of the hanachat tefillin and were overjoyed that the Rimels were there for at least part of their simcha.
“Ephraim and Tzippi have dedicated themselves to every community they were part of,” said Sheinfeld. Tzippi had this infectious enthusiasm that drew people in, he added. They were available for those who needed them around the clock, said Sheinfeld, who recalls Ephraim taking calls for the Ezra Youth Movement even on Motzei Shabbat as they walked to the car following dinner.
As the heartbreaking reality sets in, many are concerned for the future of the Rimel family. Ephraim faces a long recovery and the children need constant care and support. Here in Teaneck, Ellberger has been sponsoring several Torah-learning events in memory of Tzippi and Noam Rachel, and to promote the crucial fundraising effort. He hopes fellow community members will offer support to his late cousin’s family and help with the many challenges that lie ahead.
“Tzippi was a caring person who lit up any room she entered,” said Ellberger. He added that she would be the first to offer help and support in the face of tragedy, so it is befitting that this money is raised in her memory and for her children. Tzippi inspired so many people during her life and continues to do so even after she is gone.
To be part of the campaign and help the Rimel family, please consider donating at www.helprimel.com.
By Andrea Nissel