In Memory of Amir Lopatin    
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 Doing Bikur Cholim in Amir's memory Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 
 From:  Anonymous  
 Dated:  Sunday, August 15 2004 @ 04:15 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Recently I had a powerful experience which painfully reminded me of the tremendous loss and void that Amir's death leaves in the life of his family and friends. A friend invited me to participate in his bikur cholim group that Shabbos afternoon. I knew that this mitzvah would be the perfect opportunity for me to heal and to honor Amir's memory. And so I went with my friends to a hospital, and we comforted various Jewish patients and their neighbors. I plan to continue performing this mitzvah in Amir's memory.

Along the way I had some incredible bonding experiences with Hasidic patients and their families. I met a young Viznitzer woman and offered to pray for her recovery and talked to her. I met a Hasidic mother who told me her seven-year-old son was going to be admitted to the hospital to treat an infection in his appendix after Shabbos. His father was davening fervently for his son. But thank G-d the child's infection was not life-threatening. As a result, I felt profoundly at peace while davening mincha in the chapel where the service was led by Hasidic men.

I was deeply moved by Jonathan Wolfson's latest posting in which he described Amir's final moments of life. I am totally amazed that as he was dying, Amir was thinking of how to save the lives of other people. His final wishes were to donate his organs and ensure that his best friend Jonathan was being taken care of. Amir demonstrated the highest level of selflessness, righteousness, and kindness that a Jew can possibly show.

   

 From Jonathan Wolfson Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 
 From:  JonWolfson  
 Dated:  Wednesday, August 04 2004 @ 08:32 PM Eastern Daylight Time
God killed Amir.

That sounds heretical, coming from a Ramaz student and a Yeshiva boy, but that is how I feel.

God also saved my life. Most victims of car rollovers either die, are paralyzed, require amputations, or suffer permanent brain damage. I am unscathed.

God let me live.

Here I am faced with a question that is impossible to answer, which is, why did God kill Amir and save me? Amir was so much more worthy of life than I was, and tons more worthy of life than most people out there. Here is my case and point:

1. When Amir was dying, he said two things to the emergency worker: "I am an organ donor", and "I had a friend Jonathan with me in the car. Make sure he is alright". Amir, you are dying. You are so selfless to think of others who can use your organs, and are so selfless to think of me!

2. Environmentalist. Amir loved the outdoors. So much so that he would never ride in any transportation except for a bicycle. Not only that, but when he witnessed people littering, he would have the guts to chastise them. It was more important for him to care for the environment than to care what people thought of him.

3. Big brother. Amir was involved in the big brother program. He was big brother to several African American poor children in New York City, and spent time with them, taught them how to ride bicycles, and how to play frisbee.

4. Leader. Amir was charismatic around his friends and created an entire ultimate frisbee football league. Tons of people now have a league dedicated to their hobby thanks to Amir.

5. Computer Programmer. Amir had intense potential to revolutionize the field of computer science applied towards education. That would have improved the lives of so many struggling students around the world.

The list goes on. I cannot understand why God would take a man like Amir. I suppose it is because God loved Amir so much, He wanted to be with him.

There were so many things I envied about Amir. One thing was that everybody liked him. Everyone tried to get his attention. That was because Amir had such a charming personality, and always had something interesting and passionate to say. Encountering Amir was like having your back scratched- it just felt good. He just made you feel good. Also, Amir was very focused on what he would be doing. For instance, in creating his ultimate league, he would be on the phone and at his computer for hours on end. He knew that he would succeed, it was just a matter of him converting that knowledge into action. Amir had tremendous self-confidence. He never cared to be dressed snazzily or trendily; he was aware of the inherent superficiality of clothing and appearances. Why should he care about his surface when his inner person was so intensely vivid and likeable? Amir came from an extremely respected, intelligent family. Both of his parents went to Ivy League schools, and he and his two siblings did as well. Ramaz was easy for Amir. He got into Brown without doing much work in Ramaz, because he was so naturally brilliant.

So what can I do now that God has taken my best friend? I can try my best to incorporate his qualities into my own. I can try to become more charismatic, more self-confident, less superficial, smarter, and more focused. All those things came natural to him, and he was always there to impress me with those attributes. I miss Amir too much to allow all his qualities to pass on as well. Alas, I cannot replace him, nor can anyone else in the world. But Amir, I will try to be like you.

   

 Thinking of Amir on Tisha B'Av Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 
 From:  Anonymous  
 Dated:  Monday, July 26 2004 @ 11:20 PM Eastern Daylight Time
I was deeply moved and gratified by the letter from Jonathan Wolfson. I have been praying for his recovery every time I have been in shul for 4 months and am glad that he has at least partially recovered enough to communicate with the friends and family of his best friend Amir Lopatin.

On Tisha B'Av I went to shul to hear the chanting of Eichah. And I didn't pay attention to the line by line recitation of Eichah. But the mournful melody of the chanting of Eichah allowed me to think calmly and sadly of Amir and to remember his kindness and his good deeds. As I sat on the floor, I was able to reach a different place in my mourning for Amir. Because to me Am Yisrael is incomplete without Amir, and one of the reasons the Beit HaMikDash has not been rebuilt is that we are missing wonderful neshamas like Amir. Amir practiced the kind of Ahavat Yisrael that most of us can only dream about toward ALL JEWS and all human beings. If every Jew showed as much kindness toward other Jews and all humanity as Amir, then we would be worthy of having the Beit HaMikDash rebuilt. So let us pray that the memory of Amir can inspire us all to practice Ahavat Yisrael toward Jews whose level of observance or political views may differ from ours.

   

 From Jonathan Wolfson Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 
 From:  JonWolfson  
 Dated:  Wednesday, July 14 2004 @ 06:22 PM Eastern Daylight Time
I keep having dreams about Amir. In the most recurring dream, I am able to meet Amir and talk with him. Then my friends, observing my conversation, say to me, "Jon, who are you talking to?" And I reply, "To Amir! He is alive! Amir is alive!" to which they say, "Jon, you are talking to yourself. Jon, you need help. I am sorry, but Amir is no longer with us." I am still in shock. I have been in shock since I found out about Amir's fate. I was in Healthsouth Rehabilitation Center in Las Vegas, the date was April 15 or 16, and I thought Amir was still in a coma, or was too frightened to call me because he was worried I would be angry that he caused me to be hospitalized. This time, instead of asking my parents, "Where is Amir? Why doesn't he call me already? I won't be mad at him, I'd love to hear him!" I asked them, "Did Amir die?" to which they replied, "Yes".

I was Amir's passenger. I was ejected from the vehicle as it rolled over and I survived. My name is Jonathan. Amir and I were and are best friends. Sara Lopatin loved Amir. Shoshana loved Amir. Uri loved Amir. Lisa Rosenblatt loved Amir. I loved Amir. All 1000+ people at the funeral loved Amir. But sometimes I thought I loved Amir the most, and he loved me the most. We were best friends in a way that it is rare to find amongst males. He told me all his secrets and I told him mine. I knew what Amir thought about everything.

I will forever be guilty that I survived, and will forever be sad that Amir did not. I could imagine him taking a leadership role in heaven, and all the girls in heaven will like him the way the girls on planet Earth liked him. I wonder if he met God up there. I am sure if he did, God apologized. I am mad that God allowed Amir to die, I may even say God killed him, but that is balanced with my thanksgiving to God that he saved my life. Maybe if Orthodox is a Jew who is always thankful to God, and reform is a Jew who is always angry at God, then I am conservative, since I am thankful to God for my life but angry at God for taking Amir's life.

   

 Ramaz Reunion Speech, full version Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 
 From:  Anonymous  
 Dated:  Sunday, June 27 2004 @ 11:09 PM Eastern Daylight Time

I looked up to Amir in Ramaz. All his close friends did. He was decisive, brilliant, and blunt. We hid little from him. He expected total honesty from us. When he perceived that we had misattributed a motive he would say so, instantly, in a short sentence delivered in a voice so fast he’d skip the syllables that might slow him down. “You’re-just-saying-that-because…!” “Whatever, you’re-just-trying-to…” We either had to accept his analysis or we had to look deeper for the real motive. His honesty (and Jon’s, of a different sort) was an example to us that we needed to be completely honest with ourselves, with each other.

For a period, I lost touch with Amir after Ramaz. We phoned rarely and saw each other even less often. I visited Brown a couple of times, he visited Sarah Lawrence once… When he moved to New York after his year in Utah it had been 6 years since I had last spent time with him regularly. I found much of his conversation to be about the proper use of his time: he felt that if he was not using his time completely and in a worthwhile way, then he was not using his time morally. He played a lot of computer games and felt guilty about the time he lost playing them. I didn’t have a good handle on what he was doing with his time… working as a programmer for some company with streaming ad content or something. Playing Ultimate Frisbee. Meeting a lot of new people in the upper west side mid-20s singles Jewish community.

Amir would often say that he felt obligated to do something. If he felt obligated he would never try to avoid his responsibilities. Morality can perhaps be divided into moral thought and moral action. Moral thought: I think this is the right thing to do. Moral action: I’ll do it. Many people consider themselves moral because their thoughts are moral. Amir could only consider himself moral if he deployed those thoughts. He thought about children who were disadvantaged, so he was a Big Brother for three years to one boy. He could not reconcile in his mind people who were hungry and homeless, so he participated in organizations to help feed them. Amir treated his family obligations with sincerity and steadfastness. When his father was ill he was there for him constantly.

While the tragedy of Amir’s death has brought me shock and sorrow, the past few months have also brought me peace. I have had his example to celebrate and follow. I have had Amir in front of me and in my thoughts every day. So how can I be sad when Amir is with me? Every day I think to myself: If you think it is right you must do it; if you are honest with yourself in thought you must be honest in deed; if you waste your time you are being dishonest. How can we be sad when Amir is with us?


   

 Facing Fears Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 
 From:  YONIMALINA  
 Dated:  Monday, May 31 2004 @ 10:08 PM Eastern Daylight Time
While speaking last week to Jon, I was reminded of one particular trip that I took with Jon and Amir to the Jersey Shore two summers ago. Amir loved to get into intense discussions on the beach. Jon and I just felt like sitting there and yaking about nothing in particular. Amir started passionately speaking about why traditional therapy wasn't effective; people kept their guard up too much (he said). Amir's new theory was that doing ridiculous things was truly therapeutic because it helped people face their fears. In other words, looking like a fool was the best way to stop taking yourself too seriously and then, feel more confident. Jon and I listened to Amir rant and rave about this notion and basically (passively) agreed. We were hot and trying to take it easy. Why did Amir care so much about this? The conversation seemed too theoretical. But Amir kept asking us what we thought. So, Jon finally said the more reasonable thing(?) - that doing noble, self preserving things was the best way to help oneself face fears and feel confident in life. Amir was excited by the opposition to his argument so he tried to convince Jon otherwise. After a couple of minutes, Jon got sick of the conversation and said that he was going to get up and sing karoke. Jon has a great voice and I commented that I could never sound that good. Amir couldn't believe that I wasn't getting up to sing. Then, he said that since I agreed that the best way to face fears/feel more confident was to look like a fool, I would have to face my fear that is, to get up and sing a really spazzy karoke song. I hadn't really agreed and I certainly didn't want to sing in front of all these people but Amir had this way of being so convincing and encouraging at the same time. So I got up and sounded terrible (or according to Amir, "you have a hip, very different voice") singing karoke in front of a bunch of strangers.

Amir, you had a way of saying insane things that really were smart. I almost expect to see your bicycle outside on the street somewhere followed by your cackling laugh. Where are you? I miss all the times that I came by to see you and hear your thoughts about facing fears. Conversations will be too quiet without you.

   

 The Significance of Seven Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 
 From:  lizecr  
 Dated:  Monday, May 17 2004 @ 02:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time
This past Shabbos, my roommate Ariella commemorated the seven-year yartzeit of her father and brother. She spoke about the spiritual significance of the number seven, and how it plays a large role in Judaism and the Torah. She explained how this number symbolizes the cyclical nature of life, and a time for renewal. A few hours earlier I had been in shul and heard a speech on the parshah, which happened to discuss the seven-year cycle of Shmitah. The woman giving the speech was soon to be married and related this issue in the parshah to the seven days of creation and to walking around the groom seven times at the ceremony. I was pondering this Week of Sevens (on the seventh day of the week), only to be struck by the fact that it had been seven weeks since Amir passed away.

I have never been a very spiritual person, but I have always let a little bit of faith in G-d guide me through life. I am reminded of the time Amir called himself a spiritual person, which would seem paradoxical to most who knew him. However, thinking about him now, I can only conclude that someone whith such a vibrant spirit would have to be spiritual as well. Maybe some of his spirituality has rubbed off on me. I don't know that I will ever understand the significance of all these sevens coming together, but I believe there is something to it. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

   

 Thoughts... Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 
 From:  Shelly Hermetz  
 Dated:  Monday, May 10 2004 @ 10:10 AM Eastern Daylight Time
The last time I saw Amir was in Dahlia and Benji’s wedding. It was almost two and a half years ago.

It didn’t even occur to me that this would be the last time I’m going to see him. With me coming to visit NYC every now and then, and with him having family in Israel - I was sure we’ll meet again. No doubt.

We missed each other when I visited NYC last year and when he was in Israel last August. I later found out that he was trying to catch up with me on that visit.

I emailed him after his father had died to express my condolences, and in his response he apologized for not calling me when he was here for his father’s burial. He also said it is good hearing from me and wanted to know what is going on with my life. I found it remarkable that at such time he could think of me and not only of himself.

He wrote me some things about healing that now seem macabre.

In the past month I feel (again, macabre) much closer to Amir than I have felt in a while. Since he and the Lopatins are in my mind every day ever since...

I want to say something about the Lopatins. I strongly believe that a big portion of who we are is a result of the way we were brought up and the values we got from our family and our home.

Meeting the Lopatins recently just confirmed it. I can see why Amir was the way he was, where he got his uniqueness from.

I met Mrs.Lopatin, Uri and Shoshana when they were in Israel for Chag Sheni of Pesach, shortly after the accident. Even though I hardly knew them - it was very important for me to visit them while they were here. For me, it was the closest I could get to a shiva call.

I was so nervous before I went to see them. I mean, I’m going to visit a family at its hardest hour. I don’t really know them. What will I say? What possibly can I do or say to ease their pain? And so I went.

And I was so happy that I did. I met an amazing family, which I instantly felt a bond to. It didn’t feel weird to be there; on the contrary, they made me feel like they knew me, and we spoke about Amir. Uri and I started a discussion (of course...) about god, faith, and religion. Big questions. I wasn’t ‘ready’ for it but I loved it. It took us about 2 weeks to not finish it.

I saw the Lopatin family twice in that week. Spending some time with them brought back part of Amir to me. I felt thankful for the opportunity to meet this family.

And you know, I keep using the word family. Mishpacha. For me, as an only child – 3 is a family.

I’ve lately learned, in slightly similar circumstances, that close friends are family as well, not necessarily less than the real one. And from looking at Amir’s web site, watching the videos from his shloshim, and the short time I spent with you in Israel - I feel that you have a big family.

Shelo Ted-u Od Tza’ar.

-Shelly

   

 Amir - an intelligent Colleague Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 
 From:  DP3  
 Dated:  Saturday, April 24 2004 @ 02:21 PM Eastern Daylight Time
When I think of Amir I smile. It is hard not to, working along side him for most of 2001. Amir was intelligent, engaging and humorous. Amir had ideas and generously shared them - particularly to help others.

My last mental image of Amir is passing him in the corridor one evening as he was preparing to cycle home. Although I am saddened by Amir's tragic death, I am delighted that the world got to know the mind and persona of a remarkable young man.

I pray that God will watch over Amir’s family and help them through this difficult time.

Danny Peters

   

 Memories Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 
 From:  Rebecca Deutsch  
 Dated:  Sunday, April 18 2004 @ 11:16 PM Eastern Daylight Time
My memories of my last few months in high school are among my most cherished largely because of Amir. More than any particular episode, I remember certain feelings. I remember sitting in the passenger seat of Amir’s car as he was driving to Englewood and feeling like I was one of the luckiest people alive because Amir had let me into his world. And what a unique world this was. In this world, literary allusions shaped daily experience, social status served as a source of comic relief (as he wrote below a picture of two of our classmates in my yearbook: "Look, a tier 1 person talking to a tier 2 person, and they say these shots are candid!"), and everything, from the profound to the absurd, was questioned and discussed. I also remember admiring Amir—for his gift with language, for the intimacy of his friendships (were there best friends, other than Amir and Jon, so close that they wrote passages in each others journals?), for his clarity of vision, for his originality, and for his honesty.

During college, I remember looking forward to the refreshing insightfulness of Amir’s letters. I was forever in awe of Amir’s ability to simultaneously provoke laugher and thought. I also remember being struck by the breadth of Amir’s intellectual curiously: he somehow managed to straddle both the world of science and the world of the humanities; and he challenged me to do the same, always giving me grief for not applying my mind to some greater discipline, like math, physics, or computer science. Most of all, I remember trusting Amir, feeling like he was someone in whom I could confide.

In more recent years, other than a few lucky chance encounters, Amir and I had somehow, and to my great regret, fallen out of touch. Just recently, in early March, I came across Amir’s profile on Friendster. I remember feeling incredibly happy to have found him, even if only in cyberspace, and having immediately tried to add him as a friend. I then remember the tremendous happiness, weirdly out of proportion to the occasion, that I felt, when, within moments, Amir approved my request for friendship. I was hoping it would be a renewal.

For a period in 1997, Amir signed his emails with this quote from Alyosha’s “Speech by the Stone” in the Brothers’ Karamazov: “I want you to understand, then, that there is nothing nobler, stronger, healthier or more helpful in life than a good remembrance . . . You often hear people speak about upbringing and education, but I feel that a beautiful, holy memory from early childhood can be the most important single thing in our development. And if a person succeeds, in the course of time, in collecting many such memories, he will be saved for the rest of his life.”

And so Amir, I thank you. I thank you for saving me with these memories, with these memories of feeling. There are truly no substitutes.