When RTA hired me, Yossi was in Kindergarten. Two mornings a week, I had playground duty with the Kindergarten, first and second graders. Yossi's was one of the first names I learned, because his name was always on the lips of his classmates. They played ball, or tag, or climbed on the monkey bars on the pretty days, and I noticed how the children were drawn to Yossi as if by a magnet. Perhaps it was the 1000 Watt smile. Perhaps it was because his name was so much like YESSSSS! Or was it his loyalty to his friends, his family, his school, his shul?
Yossi wrote the letter Y cursively, like a smiling self-portrait, rather than the letter "v" with a stick under it. It crinkled at the top like his eyes, and at the bottom, had that enormous smile.
Yossi's smile would break open like brilliant sunshine parting clouds, and out would fall a pebble of a chuckle, which gathered strength into a great and wonderful laugh. Yossi's laughter was irresistible. Those NEAR that laugh were simply tripped up and pulled along by it, joining their laughter with his into an avalanche of merriment, rollicking along 'til all returned to quiet chuckles. And then, from nowhere, from all of us, another long laugh, born of the giddiness and mirthfulness of the first laugh, would erupt and spill forth, and like distant rumbling of summer thunder, one person at a time, our laughs would subside.
Rabbi Sherman and I were on the 1st hole at Belmont three and a half years ago, and I must have won the first hole because, as we walked off the green, Rabbi Sherman told me about Yossi's diagnosis. Needless to say, my already woeful game became more hopeless than ever. I'm not sure we even finished the front nine that day.
From then on, Yossi was the DEFINITION of perseverance. Through thick and thin, Yossi's electric smile and ready laugh encouraged US to encourage HIM and his family.
Under that smile was one tough cookie. I think Yossi's life and Yossi's struggle offer us, both adults and children, many lessons. Some of these we can't quite get our minds around right now, but I hope his classmates will ALWAYS recall that Yossi got his work done, and done well, even when he was going for chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and he NEVER used his cancer for an excuse.
Yossi's death makes us feel as if we have had our fresh air sucked out of our lungs. How we will miss this model student and fine young man.