The shiva period was over and the thousands of visitors from all over the world who came to comfort the Goldberg, Kupinsky, Levin, and Twersky families had left to resume their own lives with their own families. A few visitors still trickled in, but Chanukah was fast approaching, and toys and children were on people’s minds.
Even in Har Nof, life appeared to have returned to normal, with children playing on the streets and no armed guards visible. There was virtually nothing to indicate that a horrific massacre had occurred on November 18 at Kehillat Bnei Torah– except, that is, for the broken glass on the shul’s entrance door, a bullet hole in the Aron Kodesh, and one tiny blood stain on the paroches.
Har Nof (a 15-minute ride without traffic from Jerusalem’s city center) has the feel of a bucolic urban village, As I walked up Agassi Street, I was told that the four families lived in close proximity to each other, and anyone could point out their addresses.
I visited Mrs. Briana Goldberg, who came to Israel from Golders Green, England. Mrs. Goldberg unhesitatingly welcomed me into her home, despite my having come unannounced and never having previously met her.
As we sat together around her dining room table, which was completely surrounded by her late husband’s sefarim, I felt guilty asking her to talk about her husband. There was no need for the guilt. Mrs. Goldberg readily discussed Rav Avraham Shmuel, Hy”d, whose life was cut short a few weeks short of his 69th birthday.
R’ Avraham Shmuel was born and raised in Liverpool, England. He attended yeshiva both there and in Gateshead, and graduated from the University of Sheffield as a chemical engineer with a degree in glass technology. R’ Abraham Shmuel was an expert in power technology, which involved critical research into detergents, cleaners, and other chemicals we take for granted in our daily lives.
R’ Avraham Shmuel and Briana moved to Israel in 1991. Originally they purchased a house in Ofakim but after three years decided they wanted a more intensive atmosphere of Yiddishkeit for their children, so they moved to an apartment in Har Nof. R’ Avraham Shmuel worked as a consultant for American and British companies, learning Torah from early each morning until 2 p.m. before turning to his consulting work for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.
Unfortunately, after a few years both companies were liquidated and R’ Shmuel Avraham’s parnassah evaporated. Mrs. Goldberg told me her husband was then hired as CEO of Targum Press due to his outstanding Talmudic scholarship and proficiency in English. He served in that position for a few years before organizing a vocational school in Bnai Brak, ultimately committing himself to full-time learning while Briana worked at Neve Yerushalayim College for Women’s Studies.
The morning of the Har Nof massacre began like every other day. R’ Avraham Shmuel chose to attend the 6:30 minyan in the shul’s smaller downstairs room rather than the larger minyan that commenced at 7. He would arrive each morning promptly at 6:15 in order to raise or lower each shtender to the height of each regular mispallel, so that each would find his shtender at its correct height.
R’ Avraham Shmuel sat at the same table as R’ Moshe Twersky, Hy”d, and they became close friends.
“When the attackers came to the shul,” Mrs. Goldberg told me, “they immediately shot my husband and Rabbi Twersky, who both fell to the floor. The murderers then turned around to seek more victims.”
I wondered why the other congregants did not immediately flee from the premises when they saw and heard the shooting that felled her husband and Rabbi Twersky. Mrs. Goldberg said she “asked many of the survivors of the massacre the same question, and they all told me their legs were frozen; they simply could not move.”