Skip To Content

Ezra Schwartz Recalled for Big Heart and Love of Israel

At Camp Yavneh in the woods of New Hampshire they were known as the “Ezras” – Ezra Schwartz and Ezra Weener, close friends who shared the same height and name and spent summers together playing benign practical jokes and sharing a laugh.

By last summer, the pair who had been bunkmates since they were nine-years-old had grown up to become counselors. When they parted ways at the end of camp Weener said to Schwartz, who was on his way to spend a year in Israel, “Good luck, have a fun time.”

“I went to Israel for the year last year and had an amazing time. I was just wishing him the same,” said Weener, 18, a University of Maryland freshman. But Thursday he was absorbing the news that Schwartz, also 18, had been gunned down and killed at a West Bank junction, one of three victims of a terror attack.

Image by Facebook

According to friends he had deferred beginning his studies at Rutgers University so he could attend a gap year studying at a yeshiva in Israel. He and friends from his Beit Shemesh yeshiva had been distributing food to soldiers stationed in the Gush Etzion area when the van they were traveling in came under fire.

The news rippled across not just the Boston area where Schwartz grew up in the town of Sharon, but through a vast network of the outgoing teenager’s camp and school friends throughout the United States and Israel.

“He was that happy go lucky kid who did not have a care in the world, always the life of the party,” said Weener who spoke slowly and deliberately, still clearly absorbing the shock of his friend’s loss.

When he learned of Schwartz’s killing he headed straight to University of Maryland’s Hillel. Counseling sessions had been set up there, he said, for anyone who wanted them and an evening prayer service was dedicated to his memory.

“There are so many people (affected) between Israel, Camp Yavneh, school and Sharon where he lived,” he said, referring to fellow students at Maryland where Shwartz’s sister is also a student. He said at least ten people from the university were flying up to the Boston area for the funeral scheduled for Sunday.  “He was a kind loving person who everyone loved.” 

Image by Haaretz

Schwartz attended Maimonides School, a modern Orthodox Jewish day school in Brookline. He was a football fan who liked to wear the jersey of his beloved New England Patriots.

Sarah Salinger, 19, another camp friend, had trouble speaking of Schwartz in the past tense. He had been such a vital presence in her life since they met at the camp dining hall years ago when they were assigned to the same table. 

She laughed recalling the funny faces he used to make to make her laugh and the time he snuck out of his bunk in middle of night and drove a golf cart into middle of field and left it there. Another one of his practical jokes.

“He is very affectionate person,” she said of Schwartz. “His face would light up when he sees me or any of his friends. He’s an arms around you type of person. You felt a lot of love from him.” 

Salinger described his close relationship with his siblings, which aside from his older sister included three younger brothers whom he taught to play football and whiffle ball. The three boys, she said, “looked up to him like a god.”

Debbie Sussman, director of Camp Yavneh, recalled how instantly he took to his duties as camp counselor this past summer. He had the youngest campers, the eight and nine-years-olds.

“The kids would hang on him and he loved it,” she said, noting he had recently sent in his forms from Israel to return to camp as a counselor for next summer.

For Sussman and so many others of Schwartz’s friends and contacts, his death was the first time they had lost someone they knew to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Every day we hear of knife attacks and shootings and it’s a tragedy and overwhelming. But this is the first time I knew someone,” she said. “Everyone is in complete shock. This innocent young man was shot for no reason.”

Schwartz spent the summer of 2014 when Israel was at war with Gaza touring the country as part of an organized program.  Salinger was with him and she recalls how much he loved hiking in Israel and how, even though they had lived through a tense summer, he could not wait to return.

In a video she took of him on one of their tour bus rides, Schwartz, with braces and wearing a baseball hat, speaks to her in halting Hebrew, joking that he feels pressure speaking on camera. The recording shuts off just after he concludes with a cheerful, “Shalom” and looks out the bus window. 

For more stories, go to or to subscribe to Haaretz, click here and use the following promotional code for Forward readers: FWD13.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.