Avi Gross-Schaefer: Student, Soldier, Peacemaker

Avi Gross-Schaefer
Courtesy Photo

The following are remarks Arthur Gross-Schaefer prepared for one of the memorial services for his son Avi, who was hit and killed by a car while crossing a street in Providence, Rhode Island. The remarks were read by Avi’s brother Elisha.

Thank you all for coming to honor my most precious Avi. The pain is so deep that sometimes I can’t even catch my breath; the reality so hard and so impossible to comprehend that all I can do is put one foot in front of the other.

And yet, I am understanding so many things.

I am understanding that time is irrelevant. As I met for the first time Avi’s friends at Brown University just a little over a week ago, and then was embraced by so many of them who flew out and helped us roll the blessings that you are holding in your hands, I more deeply appreciate that although you’ve only known Avi for six months, it is not the length of time but the depth of the relationships that truly matter.

I am understanding that distance is irrelevant. The Israeli friends, many of whom are listening to this service in Israel and those who dropped everything to be with my most incredible son Noah in Israel, and then came with him so he would not be alone on the long flight home—and the others who flew out to be with us now—distance is truly irrelevant.

I am understanding that age is irrelevant. All of Avi’s friends, and there are so many remarkable friends, have given so much to Laurie and I over all these years; from the North American Federation for Temple Youth, and Ramah, from his Garin and his army units, from his high school and Eisendrath International Exchange, from the martial studio and Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces. Moreover, he was friends with our friends. In any venue, with any age, he was able to form profound relationships.

What to do now: Yes, grieve, but also understand that Avi’s legacy is now ours to continue. We are creating a fund, the Avi Schaefer Fund, to carry on his dream of dialogues for peace. He wanted so much for people to understand each other and each other’s narratives, especially in the Middle East. He was beginning this work in earnest, with plans this summer to go to Israel with a Brown professor and a fellow Palestinian student to spend time in Israel and time in the West Bank. It was not about just visiting, it was about listening and about learning and about building relationships, which Avi was so good at doing.

He wanted to bring students together from other universities; Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, to come together at Brown and model deep listening of each other’s narratives and of each others’ dreams. We plan to make those projects, and others, living realities and a living legacy. We, Avi’s family, ask you to join us. We need others who are dedicated to Avi’s dream to seriously make a commitment to help us think, plan, and then carryout these projects. Avi was so good at inspiring others and now, even in his death, he continues to inspire and lead us forward.

Even with all this, I am blessed with Elisha, Yoav, and Noah—my amazing sons—and my soul mate, Laurie. We will hold on to each other as we stumble forward. And then to all of you, the friends, the family.

My Avi, I love you, I will always, always miss you. I so wanted to dance at your wedding and hold your wife and your children. Now, I will always hold your tender memory. And it will bring me comfort, for I had the privilege to be your father for these past 21 years.


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