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Mourning ‘A Lovely Child’

Mourning ‘A Lovely Child’

An entire high school sat shiva, symbolically, this week.

The 250 high school students at the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester in Hartsdale observed a week of mourning for Lital Gamliel, 18, a senior living in Riverdale.

Ms. Gamliel was killed Saturday night when the car driven by her boyfriend, who was drag racing in Yonkers, crossed the road and crashed into oncoming traffic. She was sitting in the passenger seat and died at the scene.

Her body was taken for burial to her native Israel.

Irit Goldner Kohn, a Solomon Schechter faculty member, accompanied the family to Israel for the funeral and remained there for the week of shiva. The family sat shiva at Ainon, a moshav near Yavne in the center of the country.

At Schechter, some 300 people attended a Maariv-memorial service Sunday evening. School personnel had personally informed all the students about the tragedy.

"We wanted the community to come together as quickly as possible," said headmaster Elliot Spiegel.

The school observed several mourning rituals this week, he said.

Since the students could not go to the shiva house in Israel, "we really re-created it here," Spiegel said. "This is a very tight community."

A few students who had remained behind in Israel last week following a two-month learning stint in Israel did attend the funeral and visited the shiva house.

At Schechter, the mourning activities were under the auspices of the school’s "highly trained" crisis team, Spiegel said.

Classes were canceled Monday, the first day back in school after the accident. All the high school grades, which usually gather for separate Shacharit services, gathered together Monday morning.

Students recited Psalms, studied Mishna in Ms. Gamliel’s name and learned the laws of mourning.

At afternoon Mincha services that day, students and teachers delivered eulogies. Outside the school’s study hall, a shiva candle was lit next to a photograph of Ms. Gamliel and a memorial book to be signed by students and teachers.

Spiegel called the school’s mourning activities "very healing … very supportive."

The headmaster recalled Ms. Gamliel as "a lovely child" and "a gifted artist" specializing in ceramic works. She had planned to study art in college next year.

Classes resumed Tuesday, Spiegel said, but many of the students were still "somber." Others, he said, were "trying to get back to some routine. Some of the kids needed some routine rather quickly."

The school will hold a shloshim service at the end of the 30-day mourning period in late April, Spiegel said.

When the initial seven-day mourning period ends, family members, who have not left the house since the funeral, walk around the block to signify the end of shiva.

Spiegel said the Schechter family may be encouraged to take part in a similar practice on Friday, when the shiva for Ms. Gamliel ends.

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