More than 900 mourners gathered Tuesday afternoon at a Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in South Florida to pay their respects to 16-year-old Daniel Wultz, a victim of a suicide bombing in Israel last month.
So many mourners showed up to the service that the fire marshal barred any more from entering, forcing about 100 people to stand in the rain and listen to the service on speakers, their tears mingling with the raindrops. Wultz died Sunday at a Tel Aviv hospital, succumbing to the injuries he sustained in the April 17 bombing at a kosher shwarma restaurant.
He was remembered at Tuesday’s emotional service, which was held at Chabad of Weston and attended by nearly all his schoolmates at the David Posnack Hebrew Day School. Also in attendance were his aunts; his best friend; his sister, parents, cousin and grandmother, and a Chabad rabbi. Israel’s consel general for Florida and Puerto Rico, Yitzhak Ben Gad, spoke on behalf of his government, urging attendees to not let Wultz’s death scare them away from visiting Israel.
“This is the face of our ugly enemies,” Ben Gad said. “Daniel’s death is a tragedy. We have not had one moment’s peace since 1948. Our enemies would like to frighten us into not visiting Israel. But I say, we were here before you, and we will be there after you.”
Nearly the entire audience broke out in sobs when Wultz’s father, Tuly, still injured from the attack and using a cane, stood up to address the audience. Tuly Wultz wept when he said, “The father is supposed to protect the son. You protected me with your beautiful body and took all the shrapnel. You didn’t have to do that.” Later he later kissed his son’s coffin, which was covered with an Israeli flag and an American flag.
Wultz was remembered as a good-natured boy who loved basketball, his family and, above all, Judaism. In his free time, he volunteered with disabled children and studied Torah. Two Orthodox rabbis were on his cell phone’s speed dial. He hoped to become a rabbi someday.
Rabbi Yisroel Spalter, religious leader of Wultz’s Chabad synagogue, recalled how Wultz’s growing interest in Judaism led him to attend weekly Sabbath services and to pepper the rabbi with phone calls inquiring about various Jewish laws. He would greet people with “Great Shabbos” instead of the usual “Good Shabbos,” and always had a smile on his face for everyone, his friends and family recalled.
“He was close to God, he had a little otherworldliness about him,” Spalter said. “He had other interests, yes, but spirituality was the motivating factor in his life.”
His best friend, Solomon Braun, spoke of how Wultz had a strong desire to do “what was right,” how he would stay after the bell rang at school so that he could ask more questions, how he was careful not to gossip and how he admonished fellow students to always say hello to their teachers. “They are here just for us,” he told others.
“One thing we can do to remember Daniel is to do one thing to make the world a better place and mirror his lofty goal,” Braun said.
Mourners vowed to keep Wultz’s memory alive by performing good deeds, learning Torah and giving to charity.
Wultz’s beloved basketball team, the Miami Heat, also paid tribute by observing a moment of silence for him before Tuesday night’s game.