Victims of Brooklyn Chanukah fire laid to rest in Israel

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef joins thousands accompanying the caskets of four fire victims from New York, who were buried Wednesday in Holon, Israel.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

“A unique family with amazing character traits,” said one of the mourners to reporters at the funeral Wednesday of Aliza Azan, 39, and three of her six children, who died in a fire in their Brooklyn home in the very early hours of Monday morning. “They opened their doors to everyone.”

“The whole community in New York knew the family,” said another. “It’s like the community was burned down, God forbid…It’s a huge blow to them.”

This was the consensus of everyone who spoke about the Azans – righteous, giving people, with wonderful children, three of whom (aged 11, 7 and 3), were buried Wednesday in the Holon cemetery alongside their mother.

The father, Yossi, is being called a hero in the New York media, for managing to get two children, 15 and 16, out of the house, but they are all still in serious condition in the burns unit of Staten Island University Hospital. Two other youngsters, one a cousin of the family, were able to escape with much lighter injuries.

The fire department released a statement late Monday saying fire marshals determined the blaze to be accidental, caused by an “unattended lit menorah.” Neighbors have said that the religious family lit a large, oil-filled Chanukah menorah every night in their living-room window.

As the Azans are from the Syrian Jewish community in Israel, the family decided to have a funeral service in their local synagogue before flying the caskets to Holon for burial. New York media reported that close to a thousand mourners crowded Avenue T in Brooklyn at the night-time service.

Israeli media estimated higher numbers, including thirteen-year-old Moshe, the only Azan child to have already been released from the hospital. Since it was the Chanukah holiday, however, no eulogies were allowed and only some Psalms and the Kaddish prayer were recited before the bodies were taken to the airport.

At the morning burial in Holon, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said, “The entire people of Israel should cry over this fire… We are all hurting and crying, but we do not know God’s plans. They are going to a world which is only good, and they leave us [behind]. We need to do kindness with them.”

Such kindness already began before the funeral began, as the family no longer resides in Israel and so their burial here is not automatically granted. Religious Services Minister David Azulai made a special request for them to be buried in the cemetery of the town where the couple had grown up, according to Yossi Azan’s request, and permission was given by the director general of greater Tel Aviv’s burial society, Avraham Manala.