My Wedding and the Terror Attack

My Wedding and the Terror Attack

It’s two weeks before my wedding. I am lying in bed fully awake at 6:30 AM, an hour earlier than usual. Weird. I don’t remember ever waking up earlier than was absolutely necessary before…

I wander into the living room and turn on my roommate’s TV. My heart plunges into my stomach…a bus bombing just a few minutes before. The 18 bus, next to the Central Bus Station.

That afternoon, Josh calls me at 5 PM.

“Did you hear who was killed in the terror attack?”
“What do you mean?”
“Stay right where you are, I’m coming over now…”

I stand outside my building, crying, my teeth chattering even though I’m not cold. A few minutes later I see Josh running up the street…

Josh looks at me and says, “I’m so sorry…Sara Duker and Matt Eisenfeld were on that bus…”

Sara was my classmate at Pardes, and Matt was her boyfriend. I had just seen Sara at shul that Shabbat. I had just delivered both of them wedding invitations.

Sara, the sapphire blue-eyed idealistic environmentalist from Barnard. Matt, the passionate rabbinical student who was found with 2 gemaras in his backpack.

The night of our wedding, it was like there was a black hole in the wedding hall. Sara and Matt’s absence as tangible as the 200 guests who were still alive to attend our wedding…

The strange thing was that this black hole didn’t make it a sad wedding.

Sara and Matt’s deaths somehow made us dance and sing harder and longer. It was after midnight, and we were still going strong… The bandleader said he had never seen anything like it, and even asked us for a copy of the wedding video.

You can threaten us and hurt us and even kill us. The whole world can be against us.

But we’re Jews, and we’re going to continue to sing and dance and live…

Am Yisrael Chai.

Avraham Avinu was on one side and the rest of the world was on the other.

And it’s still that way…

This week, 2 articles appeared in the New York Times about observant Jews as a growing and thriving American counterculture.

“Orthodox Fringe: Moshiach Oi! Merges Orthodox Judaism and Punk Rock” discusses Orthodox Jews who become alternative rock musicians…

The director of the “Punk Jews” documentary explains, “…Jews have been involved in counterculture since the beginning of history. So there’s always an inherent element in Jewish culture, where you’re obligated to do what you think is right, even if the world is against you. That leads to counterculture… you often see that essence in Jewish culture.”

In “The Orthodox Surge,” Columnist David Brooks describes his visit to a kosher supermarket called Pomegranate which leaves him awe-struck by the moral and communal strength of the Orthodox community:

Brooks writes: “The…Orthodox are rooted in that deeper sense of collective purpose. They are like the grocery store Pomegranate, superficially a comfortable part of mainstream American culture, but built upon a moral code that is deeply countercultural…

All of us navigate certain tensions, between community and mobility, autonomy and moral order. Mainstream Americans have gravitated toward one set of solutions. The families stuffing their groceries into their Honda Odyssey minivans in the Pomegranate parking lot represent a challenging counterculture.

Mostly, I notice how incredibly self-confident they are. Once dismissed as relics, they now feel that they are the future.”

That’s us, just like Avraham Avinu…

And we’re going to continue to sing and dance and live…

Am Yisrael Chai.

photo credit: Shandi-lee via photopin cc


  1. Stacey goldmab

    I wa in rabbinical school with Matt and had gone to Barnard with Sarah. Matt and I had a parsha chevruta. That was our second year of rabbinical school. Sarah had just cleaned our apartment to make extra money for this trip. My oldest son (almost 16) has the middle name Moshe.
    Chana Jenny, we must have crossed paths during that time.

  2. Thank you for publishing this. I’m wondering if I know you, since we had Matt and Sara in common. I was Matt’s classmate and friend at Yale, and I knew Sara from her frequent visits to our campus (she was a presence there long before she and Matt started dating). I too, will never forget the day a mutual friend called and said, “I’m so sorry. Matt and Sara were on the bus that blew up.”

    I remember their levaya (funeral), and the dress that I was never able to wear again and eventually gave away.

    I remember speaking at the Yale memorial service, and the pain of experiencing, for the first time, the reality of tragic death. Time seemed to stand still as I went to stay with mutual friends, and we grieved together.

    Matt and Sara were so unbelieveably full of life — their energy and devotion and love for each other and Judaism seemed incredible to me even before the bombing. Matt used to laugh at my college-era existential angst — he told me to stop thinking so much and just be happy. As a side note, I was never able to take that advice — I don’t think Matt understood how rare his joyfulness was. I didn’t know Sara as well, but she clearly had those same traits. They would have had a wonderful life together. Maybe, somewhere, they have. I hope so.

    I also read David Brooks’ article, and while his view of Orthodox Judaism is skewed-positive, it was still a pleasure to read and be reminded of the strengths of our community.

    I was widowed recently, suddenly and shockingly, at a young age and with four young children, and my community has reached out to us in ways that continually touch and amaze me, even after living here for so many years. My children don’t know it, but they have dozens of parents now, watching them in school, in clubs, to make sure that they are doing okay. People I’ve never met have called me to ask what they can do to help. Am Yisrael Chai.

    I have tried to pay for class dues and found that someone already paid for me. And more than once, I’ve found anonymous envelopes in my mailbox containing hundreds of dollars and the message “Good shabbos” or “Chag Kasher v’Sameach”. We’re not a wealthy community, and that money represents far more than why it can buy for Shabbos or Pesach. Am Yisrael Chai.

    There is a weekly shiur in my husband’s memory (he was a high school rebbe, and loved Torah with all his heart.) Am Yisrael Chai.

    So yes, our community is at its best when there is a crisis. We come together and the differences that divide us are pushed aside to make sure that those in need are cared for. We show what we *can* be in those moments, what we are meant to be. Am Yisrael Chai.

  3. Sara was my roommate in college. It is lovely that she and Matt touched so many people who keep their memory alive.

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