Denver, CO – A tragedy halfway around the world hit close to home on Thursday for members of Denver’s Jewish community.
On the second night of Chanukah, they mourned the loss of a beloved rabbi.
Rabbi Uriel Malka, a former teacher at the Denver Academy of Torah, is among those who have died in a massive wildfire in northern Israel. The head of the school says Malka was on a bus that got caught in the fire.
He was a teacher in Denver a few years ago, but had returned to Israel to work as a chaplain.
While he only worked in Denver for two years, he made a big impact on the local community.
“They [the students] would come up and hug him because he was so warm and they gained so much from him. When you think of that ideal teacher in terms of just warmth, impact and influencing people – that was him,” Rabbi Daniel Alter with the Denver Academy of Torah said. “He was an incredible personality. He was incredibly giving and selfless.”
Counselors will be at the school on Friday for students. Alter says Malka would return frequently to the school to lead them in prayer.
“He personified the ideal role model. In many ways, his love for the students, it’s the way he led his own life in terms of his own value system. I think he was an individual who really had an incredible impact on so many of our kids,” Alter said.
At least 40 people on the bus along with Malka died. Most were prison guards who were on a mission to rescue prisoners from the fire zone.
Israel’s prime minister says the situation is an international disaster.
(Source: 9 News)