Three of the four worshipers slain in a Jerusalem synagogue Tuesday morning held Israeli-American citizenship, including one identified as part of a prominent Modern Orthodox family from Boston. The three Americans were named as rabbis Cary William Levine, Moshe Twersky and Aryeh Kupinsky, NBC News confirmed. The fourth victim, Rabbi Avraham Goldberg, was a British national.
The first victim identified was Twersky, a 59-year-old father of five, who reportedly lived in the Boston area until 2011, and then in the Bronx, New York, before moving to Israel. He is the son of Boston-born Isadore Twersky, who founded Harvard University's Center for Jewish Studies and served as its director before his death in 1997. He also is the grandson of the late Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a philosopher and Talmudic scholar considered to be one of the founders of the Modern Orthodox movement. Soloveitchik was a dean at New York City’s Yeshiva University and had ordained more than 2,000 rabbis before his death in 1993, according to his obituary. He also founded the Maimonides School, New England’s first Hebrew school and the slain Twersky’s alma mater. Twersky himself founded the English-language Toras Moshe yeshiva in Jerusalem, which caters mostly to American- and Canadian-born students.
At least six others were wounded in the bloody early-morning attack at the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue, where a pair of Palestinian men wielded axes and knives during the rampage, Israeli police said. The suspects were killed in a shootout with police.
Funerals were being held for the victims Tuesday afternoon as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the militant group Hamas for inciting the bloodshed. The dead were described as devout worshipers who took part in daily prayers at the synagogue.
Levine, 55, lived nearby in the Har Nof neighborhood. He grew up Cary William Levine in Kansas City, Missouri, and moved to Israel about 30 years ago, according to Alan Edelman, associate executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City. Edelman said Levine attended the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, and kept in touch with the local Jewish community while living abroad. Coincidentally, Twersky’s nephew, Rabbi Meshulum Twersky, teaches Jewish studies and Hebrew at Hyman Brand.
Edelman said Levine’s parents were “very active in so many aspects of Jewish life here,” Edelman said. “One of the reasons why Kalman moved to Israel and became a rabbi was because of the model that his parents were for him.”
“He was a very special soul, and lived such a humble, modest life in Israel,” Edelman said, adding, “There’s no death justifiable for a person like him. Nobody should die in a terrorist attack, but it’s another level of irony for such a sweet, sweet human being.”
Goldberg, 68, had emigrated from Britain in 1991 and previously worked in publishing, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “Avraham prayed there most days for the last 10 years or so, he was a devout Jew with no political agenda,” Goldberg’s friend, David Osborne, told Jewish News. “All he wanted was to live a peaceful life. His family are the nicest people you could meet.”
Kupinsky, a 43-year-old father of five, previously endured a family tragedy when he lost a daughter about two years ago at age 13, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He worked in computers and prayed regularly at the synagogue where he died.