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1,000 People Attend Funeral of Murdered Yeshiva Student

Murdered yeshiva student Chaim Weiss was buried Sunday in Floral Park, New Jersey, just two weeks short of his 16th birthday. The 11th-grade student at Torah High School of Long Beach, Long Island, was brutally stabbed to death sometime Saturday morning while he slept in his third-floor dormitory room.

He appeared to have been killed "with a heavy type of knife," according to police. There was a deep gash in his forehead, said faculty member Rabbi Chaim Zelikovitz. None of the other students heard any sounds, they told police who questioned them. Nothing was disturbed in Weiss’s room, according to police, school administrator Rabbi Shlomo Lesin, and Zelikovitz, and there were no signs of forced entry.

Weiss was last seen alive at 1 a.m. Saturday by a fellow student with whom he had been studying. The murdered yeshiva student was found in his bed at 7:30 a.m. by a dormitory supervisor who went looking for him when he failed to show for morning services.

People in the community and faculty members were hesitant to describe the murder as an anti-Semitic act. Both Lesin and Zelikovitz said there had been no serious anti-Semitic activity in the neighborhood, a New York suburb heavily populated by religious Jews.

Lesin said there had been some graffiti on another dormitory some years ago, but juvenile-type slogans. "We don’t have any problems with our neighbors or any anti-Semitism," Lesin told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He said there had been no fights within the dormitory.

INCIDENT DESCRIBED AS ‘BIZARRE’

Zelikovitz described the incident as "bizarre," an anomaly in a normally peaceful neighborhood where people are accustomed to leaving open the doors of both their houses and their cars. He said people are grappling with how to explain the unusual incident.

Zelikovitz told JTA that the school will be closed until Tuesday morning, and that they hadn’t decided yet what to do with or for the students. He said that each faculty member spoke to the students and that psychologists were brought in after Shabbat to speak to the students and parents, trying to decide whether it’s better to stay or leave. Saturday night they left it up to the parents. Zelikovitz said that between one-half and two-thirds of the student body left for home or friends’ houses. Many students do not live in the area.

Weiss was a Staten Island resident, the son of Pessy and Anton Weiss, and older brother to Menachem, 11, and Rachel, 7. His grandparents, all of whom are living, were refugees from Hitler’s Europe, and his father was born in a displaced persons camp after World War II.

The victim’s family was notified by police on Staten Island towards the end of Shabbat, and school personnel visited with the Weiss family immediately after Shabbat ended, Lesin said. The yeshiva high school, known as Mesivta Torah to students and faculty, is a branch of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, an affiliate of Agudath Israel of America.

‘HE HAD AN ACTIVE, CREATIVE MIND’

Zelikovitz, who was Weiss’s teacher last year, described the boy as "a very bright youngster, very quick. When he was my student, he was able to field any problem without thinking, able to shoot back answers. He had an active, creative mind."

Zelikovitz said Weiss was "very well-liked, mild-mannered, wouldn’t hurt a fly, always with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye." The rabbi said Weiss was interested in sports, played basketball, was "a very well-rounded, talented youngster."

Zelikovitz said that perhaps over 1,000 people crowded into the Shomrei Hadas Funeral Chapel in Boro Park, Brooklyn, for Weiss’s funeral service Sunday. He described the scene of neither sitting nor standing room.

"Every inch of space was occupied. In fact, there was no room for the coffin to be brought in. They had to make room. What really overwhelmed me was the number of cars and busloads of students that went to the cemetery. I myself saw representatives from every major yeshiva in the New York area and even some from outside," said Zelikovitz. "It was a tragedy that every yeshiva felt part of."

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