Yossi's story is one people shouldn't forget


Of all the stories that have come out of the Israel-Hamas war, one in particular epitomizes the atrocity, hatred and sadness of such a conflict. That is the story of Yossi Hershkovitz, a former SAR Academy teacher, father of five and husband to Hadas, also a former SAR teacher.

There have been numerous stories of Jewish-Americans and their Israeli relatives who suffered at the hands of the terrorist organization known as Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023. But the story of Yossi, an IDF reservist who felt compelled to go back home to Israel to fight for his country and free the hundreds of hostages, strikes at the heart of what it means to be a Jew today.

Yossi was one of five reservists from the 551st brigade who were slain during the early part of the war as they made their way through a booby-trapped tunnel in Gaza near a mosque searching for hostages in Beit Hanoun.

After receiving intelligence, Yossi and his unit attacked and eliminated 22 Hamas members, according to The Chesed Fund. He and his unit were killed in an ambush in the tunnel after the attack.

An email sent by Des Hershkovitz recently described the life of Sgt. Maj. Hershkovitz.

He was “a respected Jerusalem high school principal, who will always be remembered as a symbol of courage and sacrifice. On Oct. 7, amidst sudden conflict, Yossi Hershkovitz demonstrated extraordinary bravery. He didn’t hesitate to run towards danger, facing Hamas terrorists to protect others. This heroic act, which tragically led to the loss of his life at 44, has left an indelible mark on the hearts of many.”

The email went on to state: “Yossi’s story is not just a tale of heroism; it’s a powerful reminder of our shared humanity and the strength that comes from unity. His dedication to his community, both as an educator and a protector, shows the profound impact one individual can have.”

The Hershkovitzes settled in Riverdale, leaving their family and support system behind in Israel. A young couple with two small children who did not speak English, they quickly found a supportive network within the Bronx and at SAR. Even as they worked to adjust to their new community, the Hershkovitz family generously opened their home to others, becoming an integral part of the community rather than “visitors.” During their four-year stay, they left an indelible mark on the neighborhood and hundreds of students.

Teachers from SAR Academy remember how Yossi truly saw the good in every single child he met. Central to SAR’s mission is the idea that every child has a “divine spark,” and it was immediately clear that this came naturally for Yossi, as he effortlessly connected with each child by believing in them fully.

“Yossi’s approach to teaching was rooted in compassion and caring for each student as an individual,” SAR Principal, Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, shared. “He was a man of strong ideals and Torah principles, living out his beliefs both in and out of the classroom.”

In the email from Des, it states: “In his memory, we are called to unite, setting aside differences to help one another. This was Yossi’s most cherished wish. His life and sacrifice urge us to contribute generously, supporting causes that reflect the values he stood for. ”

For anyone who wants to help the Hershkovitzes, there is a special fund that has been set up. It is one way to make a difference during such troubling and terrible times. As of Dec. 28, an online fundraising drive on The Chesed Fund had raised nearly $460,000 towards a goal of $1 million to help the family. To give to the fund, visit theChesedFund.com/yossihershkovitz

Yossi Hershkovitz, Israel, Hamas, Gaza, war, antisemitism, The Chesed Fund, SAR Academy