It is with a broken heart that OTS mourns Rav Yaakov Don, z”l, beloved and inspirational teacher at OTS Derech Avot High School who was murdered in today’s terrorist attack at Gush Etzion Junction. We extend our deepest sympathy and embrace his wife, Sarah, and their four children: Aviad, Maor, Yedidya and Racheli.
Yaakov loved with a huge heart, and was loved by all in return. The warm and inclusive smile which never left Yaakov’s face was legendary; it immediately put everyone at ease, lightened the atmosphere and provided strength and happiness to all who surrounded him. For Yaakov, being an educator was a mission as much about teaching as it was about providing confidence, security and warmth to his students, whom he treated like his own children.
This is his legacy.
Yaakov Don’s colleague, Yaakov Stern, captured in words some of our feelings tonight; below is a translation:
A few hours after the murder we all gathered in the school that Yaakov so loved, talking and listening, exchanging words of sadness, swapping information about what is – and what is no longer – about details and memories. And something within this sadness is just so inappropriate; something about our grief just doesn’t fit in relation to this man whom we all so adored, for whom being happy was an integral character trait.
We remember the good old days of togetherness, of sharing life’s details – the mundane as well as the personal … “Yaakov, tell me what to do.” And always – but always; not often and not sometimes but always – these conversations ended with a smile. No, not a smile, that’s not the right word.
Encouragement. No, that’s also insufficient…. when you try to imagine what Yaakov was trying to express in his smile it was something much stronger, something connected to a sense of immense happiness.
And maybe that was your entire personality, a personality of happiness. Your presence in the school made such an impact! There was no student who did not merit a smile from you; even if he was not one of your own pupils, you found your way straight into his heart. Students drew from you what is perhaps the most important lesson in life: how to find the good and the beautiful in every single thing.
Your rolling laughter which tore through the halls… even if we were dealing with a difficult situation or even if we got up on the wrong side of the bed or even if we thought there was no solution to our problems, here was Yaakov to calm you down and roll with you, happily, in times of trouble.
And to say goodbye to you… The tears nonetheless choke because it is impossible to not cry, but at the same time we see you before us. And what a mischievous smile appears, for we know your directive to us all: that we go forth living, with much happiness in our hearts.
עם לב שבור, אור תורה סטון מבכה את יעקב דון, ז”ל, מחנך ורכז חינוך בתיכון התורני או”ת דרך אבות באפרת, שנרצח בפיגוע הטרור היום בצומת גוש עציון. אנו מחבקים את אשתו, שרה, ואת ילדיו אביעד, מאור, ידידיה ורחלי.
יעקב היה אדם בעל אישיות מופלאה. אדם אוהב ואהוב. בכל מקום שאליו הלך, הייתה אוירה טובה – הנשמה הטהורה שלו והטוב שבו נתנו כח לכל הסובבים אותו. החיוך החם אשר מעולם לא ירד מפניו היה אגדי.
יעקב היה איש חינוך בכל רמ”ח איבריו. מעבר לאהבתו את החינוך, הוא אהב את החניכים. הוא דאג לתלמידיו כאילו היו ילדיו והעניק להם ביטחון, עידוד ואהבה.
זו המורשת שלו.
עמיתו של יעקב דון, יעקב שטרן, כתב במילים את הרגשות של כולנו: