27/05/2024
27/05/2024
יום שני, 27 במאי 2024
October 7 War

"Never Stop Loving. We do not fight because we hate but because we have such a love in our hearts for life“

 Jonathan W. Dean, Jr.

 

The extraordinary story of Staff Sergeant Jonathan W. Dean Chaim Jr. (24), a fighter in the Combat Engineering Corps, who was born into a Christian family in Rochester, New York, converted to Judaism, immigrated to Israel, enlisted to the IDF and fell in battle in southern Gaza

Dr. Noga Rosenfarb

Feb 2024

Jonathan William Dean Jr. grew up in a quaint rural suburb near Rochester in Upstate New York. Born into a family deeply rooted in the area , he was the son of Grace and Jon Dean. His upbringing was in a historic 1865 farmhouse.  Jonathan's family included his brothers RJ, Randy, and Chad, and sister, Jessica. All have pursued admirable careers – including local and federal law enforcement, Marine reservist, business and counseling careers. Jonathan’s father is retired law enforcement and his mother works in the education field.

"Jonathan was an adventurous, brave, compassionate, and caring young man.' He took care of everybody. He took care of me, helped me, and loved to cook with me. He was an excellent chef, a fabulous writer, artist, and a humanitarian. I'm hoping to compile his journals and some of his writings into a compendium at some point,” said his mother.

He was very mature for his age, a tremendous athlete, an excellent runner, and a skilled soccer player. He would usually call me around 4:00 or 4:30 in the morning (USA time). I still wake up at that time, but now the phone doesn’t ring…" says his mother, Grace.

In America, he graduated from Cornerstone Christian Academy in Brockport, and after his death, a memorial scholarship in his name was founded. He was very close to his former principal and mentor, Christopher Johnson , who officiated the memorial service at the church. Jonathan went on to study for a bachelor's degree in history and Spanish in college. He learned 4 languages over the course of his young life and while studying Spanish, lived in Mexico for a semester on an immersion program.  At college, he met several Jewish friends and became closer to the Jewish community while being exposed to the horrors of the Holocaust. "His constant search and curiosity led him to be interested in Judaism, in the state of Israel, and the Hebrew language," says his brother, RJ.

Rabbi Leonardo Bitran from his Synagogue  helped Dean with his conversion to Judaism in 2018 and with his immigration process in 2019 , as he would be graduating with his Bachelor’s degree in 2020 and planned to attend the University of Tel Aviv for his Master’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management .After deciding this was the path for him, he converted to Judaism. By the end of 2020, he relocated to Israel.

Rochester’s Rabbi Bitran , describes Jonathan as someone who stood out and was passionate, not only about Judaism but also about living life.

"I am proud that I was there to help him achieve his dreams. I never thought that his dreams would lead to his death. That is what hurts the most"

"His vibrant personality was a beacon of light"

Jonathan lived on 'Etzion' Street in Ramat Gan, together with friends who became his second family.  He traveled the country and was particularly enthusiastic about the holy places. From childhood, he stood out for his desire to help others as much as he could, and this continued in Israel—he volunteered at MDA, assisted elderly Holocaust survivors, and indeed did everything to be an involved humanitarian in Israel in every respect, just as he was in the United States. In Rochester, he also volunteered with elderly neighbors and relatives as well as strangers. Through his initiative and with the help of Faith Bible Church, he started a blanket drive for homeless and veterans and survivors of domestic violence, raising over 500 blankets yearly. The church and his mother helped to wrap each one in new bags with a ribbon tied around each one , as it was Christmas time and he wanted these people, strangers to him , to have a gift. He loved holidays and celebrated them from his past and present.

He obtained a Master's Degree in Emergency and Disaster Management at Tel Aviv University, within the Faculty of Medicine.  Fluent in four languages—English, Spanish, Hebrew, and American Sign Language (ASL), which he intended to get a certification in at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology)—he intended to work in the profession he had acquired: a medical interpreter in hospitals. His latest research paper focused on the challenges faced by the deaf community during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the communication barriers posed by widespread mask usage. "He was a good friend to his classmates. His vibrant personality was a beacon of light in the classroom, and he will surely be missed," the department remarked.

His next chosen step in life before returning to the States for that last certification was service in the IDF. He enlisted and, at his request, was assigned to the Combat Engineering Corps. "I met him for the first time on a bus from 'Tel Hashomer.' I suddenly heard someone behind me speaking fluent English. I thought, 'Well, there's another one with an accent like mine,' and that's how we became friends," says Sergeant Lukas Siowkan, a member and fighter in Jonathan's company. Lukas became a dear friend and is in touch with the family, even having visited the gravesite in New York.

"Jonathan was an adventurous, brave, compassionate, and caring young man.' He took care of everybody. He took care of me, helped me, and loved to cook with me. He was an excellent chef, a fabulous writer, artist, and a humanitarian"

  "Wanted the world to be a better place"

On the morning of October 7, he still had time to call his brother Randy and ask him to ensure that their mother, Grace, would not watch the news because there was a missile attack on Israel. He entered Gaza as a fighter in the Combat Engineering Corps, in the 603rd Engineering Battalion, within the 'Saar Megolan' formation, and fell on December 8th during a battle in southern Gaza.

Like his extraordinary life story, his departure from life was also unique. The first ceremony was held at a military camp in Israel, with most of the eulogies given in English so that the friends who attended and the family members who watched from afar could understand. His dear friend Najma paid tribute to him: "Yoni, my love, the love of my life, and the person who was supposed to be with me through fire and water. He wanted the world to be a better place."

At the end of this ceremony, Jonathan's journey made his way back home to his family. A casualty officer and a representative of the military rabbinate accompanied the casket, draped with the Israeli flag, on the long flight to the second ceremony at the cemetery. His family had watched the first one as it was live streamed from Israel. All of his family were very touched and his mother mentioned the 7 wreaths that were placed on his pine casket with the Israeli flag draped on it as being beautiful and moving.

His burial ceremony in Upstate New York was on a winter day befitting the cold northern country and was an unusual event led by a Jewish Rabbi. In the background, a Scottish band played a bagpipe tune called 'Coming Home’ and a Christian hymn called ‘Amazing Grace.’

At the burial site, his brother Randy gave a eulogy, as his parents, siblings and all that loved him were there. Randy said in his eulogy,“He died while helping people, protecting them, and loving them. The Star of David is now resting above you to light your way.”

At the burial some mourned, some were stunned, some were strong, some could not and no one still could believe it.

"This loss has shocked not only the congregation of the 'Beth El' synagogue but the entire local Jewish community. I am proud that I was there to help him achieve his dreams. I never thought that his dreams would lead to his death. That is what hurts the most," Rabbi Bitran says. "He loved every moment. He was where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do. He was nearing the end of his service when the war broke out, and he planned to return to the United States in January. Unfortunately, this tragedy cut his life short," the Rabbi adds.

Indeed, it shocked the entire local community.

Two days later, the third ceremony was held at the local Christian Church in the city. Military and Honor guard and bagpipes again with beautiful floral arrangements and orange tulips given to everyone in his honor while his brother, Chad gave a touching eulogy and his former principal and mentor, Mr. Johnson conducted the service at Pastor Brado’s church.

Chad said of his brother “God needed another Warrior“

His brother RJ memorialized him, saying: "He defended his country and his people. He will be remembered in history as someone who died for what he believed in. Jonathan always said, 'I will not rest until this is over; this is my mission, this is my way, and this is what I was called to do.

"After his death, we planted orange tulips in his honor and distributed them at his burial ceremonies, in the synagogues, and in the churches. I have started something called the Orange Tulip Project and these boxes with tulips and ribbons for hostages…"

"This loss has shocked not only the congregation of the 'Beth El' synagogue but the entire local Jewish community. I am proud that I was there to help him achieve his dreams. I never thought that his dreams would lead to his death. That is what hurts the most," Rabbi Bitran says. "He loved every moment. He was where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do. He was nearing the end of his service when the war broke out, and he planned to return to the United States in January. Unfortunately, this tragedy cut his life short," the Rabbi adds.

Indeed, it shocked the entire local community.

Two days later, the third ceremony was held at the local Christian Church in the city. Military and Honor guard and bagpipes again with beautiful floral arrangements and orange tulips given to everyone in his honor while his brother, Chad gave a touching eulogy and his former principal and mentor, Mr. Johnson conducted the service at Pastor Brado’s church.

Chad said of his brother “God needed another Warrior“

His brother RJ memorialized him, saying: "He defended his country and his people. He will be remembered in history as someone who died for what he believed in. Jonathan always said, 'I will not rest until this is over; this is my mission, this is my way, and this is what I was called to do.

photo: keshet12 news
photo: keshet12 news

"Just fell in love with this country"

His friend Nir Reichman wrote, "Yoni was one of the most kind-hearted people I knew. A guy who converted and did it even though he had nothing to do with us. He just fell in love with this country. He changed his whole life and came alone. And enlisted in the army, even though he didn't have to. And full service. And combat engineering… who does such a thing? He was supposed to be released in three more weeks… already started counting down, planning to find a job, to start life all over again… It won't happen now. I had the privilege of knowing you. Will always love you."

Sam Tregea, a close childhood friend of Jonathan's, stated: "Jonathan has been one of the most important people in my life for as long as I can remember. He was one of the most loving, intelligent, articulate, and hardest-working people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was always there for me. Even after he moved away to Israel, he always made an effort to keep in touch with not only me but everyone he was close with. I will always remember our conversations where we would simply joke around and talk about life, discuss his amazing adventures abroad as well as our future goals, and what his plans were once he was supposed to move back to the US once his military contract was over. He was such a pure and genuine soul who would make it a point to make you feel you were important and had a purpose. I will truly miss his infectious and unique laugh and smile, his ability to speak his mind, and his ability to set his mind to an ambitious goal he would always achieve."

"Jonathan was a peacemaker. Jonathan always finished what he started and had stamina and determination and was teachable. He would not have come home, I am sure, until this was finished. He made it clear to his brothers and to me that he would finish and see this through. He was not going to leave his fellow soldiers in the country that he grew to love. So, although he was supposed to come home in three weeks, I think he would have put that on hold because he was concerned about the hostages and horrified by some of the events that took place in the land that was his second home and perhaps would someday become his first. " says Grace, his mother.

"After his death, we planted orange tulips in his honor and distributed them at his burial ceremonies, in the synagogues, and in the churches. I have started something called the Orange Tulip Project and these boxes with tulips and ribbons for hostages, feathers and silk flower petals have Jonathan’s picture inside the cover and a letter requesting the recipient to plant the tulip and donate to one of the organizations listed inside such as FIDF, MDA, Big brothers Leukemia society in his honor.

His father and his grandmother spend a lot of time at the cemetery to make sure things are just right and to spend time with Jonathan. It is still surreal.

“We miss him so much. Our hearts go out to all the parents who don't know what happens to their loved one. We know where Jonathan is, and it helps to think that he died a hero."

That’s what Mom said and what they all feel.

As brother Chad said in his eulogy at the church

“JONATHAN’S HEART WAS THAT OF GOLD. FROM HIS LOVE FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS TO HIS VOLUNTEER WORK AND FINALLY HIS SERVICE TO ISRAEL, HE ALWAYS WANTED TO HELP OTHERS.IN THE END, JONATHAN WENT OUT ON HIS SHIELD DOING JUST THAT. PROTECTING VILLAGES OF CIVILIANS FROM ROCKET ATTACKS AND MORE FAMILIES FROM BEING HURT LIKE OURS IS.”

Rest in peace young man. Rest in peace

המגזינים

עשו מנוי למגזין 'גבעתיים פלוס',

בכל גיליון כתבות וטורים מעניינים ומעמיקים
אל תחמיצו, עכשיו ללא תשלום!

עשו מנוי למגזין 'רמת גן פלוס',

הישארו מעודכנים
אל תחמיצו, עכשיו ללא תשלום!
אל תפספסו הכתבות האהובות
כתבות השער

איש אשכולות

“לא מן האדמה באתי! כי באתי ממשפחה ציונית” סיפורו של דב רוזנפרב, איש האשכולות, השזור במהלך הקמתה של מדינת ישראל

קראו עוד»
המגרש הביתי

שושלת מליקה

אופק מליקה שוער נבחרת הנוער זוכת מדליית הארד במונדיאליטו 2023. גדל והתחנך בעיר גבעתיים, ובמועדון בו שיחקו גם בני משפחתו – הפועל רמת גן

קראו עוד»
כתבות השער

רעיון קטן שהפך לגדול

האדריכלית ומעצבת הפנים הילה עדני, חברה לדוגמנית ולכוכבת החדשה של "רוקדים עם כוכבים" רומי פרנקל ולקראת פסח השתיים ערכו מתיחת פנים לבסיס חטיבה 188

קראו עוד»
חדר החדשות

"ואני רק רציתי לשיר" להקות "נעורי גבעתיים" במופע מחווה מרשים לריטה

חדר החדשות "ואני רק רציתי לשיר" להקות "נעורי גבעתיים" במופע מחווה מרשים לריטה להקת נעורי גבעתיים היא אחת מלהקות הנוער הוותיקות והטובות בישראל שתפו להקות "נעורי גבעתיים", להקות הזמר הייצוגיות של העיר, קיימו אמש (ד')

קראו עוד»
כתבות השער

כיצד הפכה גבעתיים לעיר הכי מבוקשת

כיצד הפכה גבעתיים לעיר הכי מבוקשת בשנים האחרונות נשבר המחסום והעיר שנחשבה למנומנמת הפכה לצעירה ותוססת. אנשי הברנז'ה והתקשורת שעברו להתגורר בה בגלל משכנו של ערוץ 10 בבנין בית הורד נשארו בעיר בגלל איכות החיים,

קראו עוד»
Shape
Shape

נשמח לשמוע מה שיש לך להגיד לנו

זהו? יוצאים מהאתר?

הצטרפו גם אתם לאלפים שכבר מנויים,

עשו מנוי למגזינים הכי מעניינים, ובחינם!

זהו? יוצאים מהאתר?

הצטרפו גם אתם לאלפים שכבר מנויים,

עשו מנוי למגזינים הכי מעניינים, ובחינם!

דילוג לתוכן