2009-03-20 / Top Stories

Nine-Year-Old Son Of Rabbi Dies In Sleep

By Jennifer Pagano

A nine-year-old Woodmere boy and student at Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway tragically died in his sleep on February 27 from a flu infection.

Levi Yitzchak Wolowik read the Torah and said blessings that night, as he often did on Friday nights at Shabbat meals. He was unresponsive the next morning when his family tried to wake him for synagogue.

Health officials said the presumed cause of death was influenza A. This is the second such case on Long Island this flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this season the deaths of 17 children around the nation have been related to the flu.

The third of seven children, Wolowik is the son of Rabbi Zalman and Chanie Wolowik, emissaries in the Five Towns area of Long Island in suburban New York. The website of Chabad of the Five Towns featured a brief personal message from the Wolowiks, urging the community to attend an annual fundraising dinner scheduled for a night at the Sephardic Temple in Cedarhurst.

"On so many occasions, we were taught by our beloved Rebbe, ZY" A, that the only way to confront tragedy, to overcome and persevere, is to persist with even more energy and more joy. There could be no greater way to honor Levi a"h." That was the message the Wolowiks had at each table setting for dinner.

"We are all shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of our wonderful student Levi Yitzchak Wolowik," said Rabbi Yaakov Bender, Rosh Ha Yeshiva of Yeshiva Darchei Torah. In a quote from a teacher on one of Levi's report cards, "Levi Yitzchak's mind is a window whose bright light shines in and illuminates the entire class. His enthusiasm and work ethic are setting the standard for all to aspire to. Keep up the good work!" Rabbi Yaakov Bender goes on to say, "We have lost a very special young man. Most of all, his parents have lost an extraordinary son."

The co-directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Five Towns in Nassau County announced the building of a children's library in memory of the young Wolowik. "The creation of the library," they said, "grew out of wanting to do something that reflected their young son's interests." Family members and friends have signed on to the project, as have many people from the community.

"Our son very much enjoyed reading and writing," said Zalman Wolowik. "He kept a personal journal that he wrote in every day. We decided that a Jewish Children's Library would be the most fitting way to bring life and richness into our community."

Chanie Wolowik envisioned the library as "a warm, inviting place for children." The library is set to open in late spring.

Thousands gathered on a Sunday afternoon at Shomrei Hadas Funeral Home in Brooklyn for Levi's funeral. He was buried at the Old Montefiore cemetery in Cambria Heights.

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