(COLLEGE PARK, MD – May 9) -- On a night that was to celebrate the achievements of a year of activities, more than 150 students joined together at the University of Maryland Hillel Foundation to memorialize Yaakov "Koby" Mandell and Yosef Ishran, two teenagers murdered near the West Bank town of Tekoa. Koby, 13, was the son of former Maryland and Penn State Hillel Director Rabbi Seth Mandel.
"We must pause for a moment to reflect on how we are all part of a much greater community, the community of Klal Yisrael. One Jewish people," explained Maryland Hillel Director Scott Brown. "What a brutal and senseless loss of two beautiful lives. We express our love and sympathy to the families of the two boys. May their memory be a blessing."
The two teenagers were murdered while hiking near their home. Koby, the eldest of four children, had recently moved to the area with his family from the West Bank town of Efrat. The Mandel family immigrated to Israel in 1996. Rabbi Mandel served as Hillel director at the University of Maryland from 1991-1996 and his wife Sherri taught writing at the College Park campus.
At the memorial, Maryland junior Temima Fruchter, a former neighbor of the Mandels' in Silver Spring, MD, spoke movingly of the family. Students began signing condolence notes which will be collected over the next week and sent to the families in Israel.
"Koby was somebody's brother, somebody's son... my neighbor, my young friend," she said Fruchter. "He and his family taught me more than I could want about love."
First-year student Shirah Rosin described the Hillel Foundation's year-long series of activities to heighten awareness of Israel's role in Jewish life. In the last two weeks, the Hillel sponsored a series of events to celebrate Israel's Independence Day including a week-long Solidarity Week and a campfire. The Hillel sent over 80 students to Israel in the winter as part of Hillel's birthright israel program, and participated in pro-Israel rallies in Washington, D.C. Hillel offers Jewish students at Maryland a variety of ways to express their Jewishness, including community service, social activities, Jewish learning and religious services.