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Brooklyn, NY - Six Months Later, Gabriel And Gayle Sassoon Open Up About Life After The Fire That Claimed Seven Of Their Children

Published on: September 20, 2015 08:31 PM
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The Sasson familyThe Sasson family

Brooklyn, NY - Just six short months after the tragic deaths of seven of his precious children, Gabriel Sassoon, 52, has found himself to be something of an unlikely hero to other suffering souls around the world.

In a wide-ranging interview with Ynet News (http://bit.ly/1j18NQ7 ), Sassoon spoke about what he sees as a new calling for himself following the passing of his children in a horrific house fire – to console and counsel those who have lost their way, and to be a husband to his still healing wife, Gayle, and their lone surviving child, 15-year-old Tziporah.

As the shloshim for Eliane, 16; Rivkah, 13; David, 12; Yeshua, 10; Moshe, 8; Sarah, 7; and Yaakov, 5 arrived, Sassoon said he wondered if he could carry on or if he even wanted to continue living. “I remember traveling to Israel to visit the graves 30 days after the disaster,” Sassoon said. “I was staying with friends who don’t have children so that it wouldn’t hurt too much. At the end of the month, I felt that I needed to decide whether I wanted to live or not. I told myself, ‘get up, clip your nails, shave, and choose life. You still have work to do in this world.”

Upon his return to New York, Sassoon was suddenly inundated with calls and messages from suicidal youth, people struggling from illness and financial problems, unmarried individuals, desperate parents with drug-addicted kids, and many others from all walks of life. He has also become a much sought after speaker, booking speaking engagements across the United States and around the world. He has even been asked to give a TED talk. Though he has unexpectedly been thrust into this new role, he has, nevertheless, embraced it.

“Suddenly I, still digesting the magnitude of my disaster, need to encourage others,” Sassoon shared. “People ask me how I get up each morning.  . . They only ask me to give them tools, another way of thinking. I don’t work miracles. I don’t know where I get the answers – it comes out of me. I think people don’t believe I can go on living and they see me as some kind of inspiration, because if I can go on living, anyone can. . . .I very quickly understood it’s also a destiny.”

It’s this sense of purpose that helped Sassoon to choose to live his new life, “a different life path” that he says God chose for him. He believes there is a higher reason for him to stay alive – to serve as kind of mentor to those have survived and endured tragedy. Sassoon says he was once asked why he hasn’t committed suicide or taken drugs since the catastrophe. “Killing yourself is the easiest thing to do,” Sassoon responded. “Persevering and building yourself anew is the real test. That’s what’s called living. I do take a drug. My drug is the Torah.”

Gabriel Sassoon delivers a eulogy before the burial of his seven children in Jerusalem March 23, 2015. ReutersGabriel Sassoon delivers a eulogy before the burial of his seven children in Jerusalem March 23, 2015. Reuters

Sassoon is also careful to mention that he does not want people to pity or feel sorry for him. “Life teaches us to build even out of the rubble, Sassoon says. “But for that, you need to completely submit to God, because if we start looking for material answers, how can you go on?”

Sassoon doesn’t indulge in games of what if? or question whether his children might still be alive today if he had been home that fateful Friday night when flames engulfed his Brooklyn home. “No, you don’t ask what would’ve been. . .The Almighty wanted my children next to Him and He gave me a new job in life. It was the will of the Almighty, simple as that.”

For now, the Sassoons continue to heal and rebuild at their own pace. They have relocated to New Jersey to live with Gayle Sassoon’s parents. Painful reminders of happy times spent with their children constantly surround them, but Sassoon says he and his wife push themselves to move forward. “We’ve become a new family, just three souls, and we need each other.”

A very weak and tired Gayle Sassoon also spoke to Ynet by phone, describing how she has managed to cope since the death of her children. “It’s difficult, it’s very difficult for me,” she said. “But the family helps and supports us, and Gabriel knows how to encourage me. He knows what to say. He takes me walking when I have the strength to go out for a bit.” Their daughter, Tziporah, has returned to school, but is still undergoing treatments. Gayle says she and her husband know they have to be strong for their lone surviving child. “My children wanted to live, so I have to live for them,” she said.

This Yom Kippur will be six months since the Sassoon children were returned to their “Creator,” and this High Holiday season has a totally different feeling than in previous years, Sassoon admits. But he finds that being a “surrendered man” and “completely humbling” himself to God’s will is the only course of action. “A person needs to understand they don’t determine anything here,” he says. “Just look at what happened to my family. We don’t determine anything. Deep inside, everyone understands it.”

Mourners gather around the bodies of seven children from the Sassoon family during a funeral  service before their burial in Jerusalem March 23, 2015. ReutersMourners gather around the bodies of seven children from the Sassoon family during a funeral service before their burial in Jerusalem March 23, 2015. Reuters
Firefighters stand outside a home hours after it caught fire in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York March 21, 2015. ReutersFirefighters stand outside a home hours after it caught fire in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York March 21, 2015. Reuters

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Read Comments (30)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Sep 20, 2015 at 08:41 PM Anonymous Says:

Nebech, who can look at that first photo and not cry.

2

 Sep 20, 2015 at 09:48 PM RebKlemson Says:

im not sure he should be a paid inspirational speaker, it kinda takes away from his greatness a bit.

3

 Sep 20, 2015 at 09:52 PM Anonymous Says:

What can one say to a man of such strength in the face of such adversity? Words cannot express the sadness that I feel for him, his wife and daughter.
I can only continue to pray that hkbh grant them strength to cope, and that the coming year should bring them answered bakashos. A gut yur, Mr. Sassoon. You are a beacon of strength to us all.

4

 Sep 21, 2015 at 12:04 AM LionofZion Says:

Sorry, he should be speaking about smoke detectors, not inspiration. That is the powerful message he should be sharing and it is the message that can save lives.

5

 Sep 21, 2015 at 12:08 AM McDougil Says:

Reply to #2  
RebKlemson Says:

im not sure he should be a paid inspirational speaker, it kinda takes away from his greatness a bit.

Why do you assume he gets paid?

6

 Sep 21, 2015 at 12:09 AM izzybee Says:

Reply to #2  
RebKlemson Says:

im not sure he should be a paid inspirational speaker, it kinda takes away from his greatness a bit.

it is a strange thing to hear someone who has lost 7 children all at once as being "great."

I imagine that this is all he can do for a while, a tikkun of sorts.. remember his loss, talk about his loss, share his loss. if that's all he can do, then b'h, he should because he still has to support himself and his family and if he helps others in the process? good.

gmar chasimah tovah

7

 Sep 21, 2015 at 01:07 AM Meyer Says:

Reply to #4  
LionofZion Says:

Sorry, he should be speaking about smoke detectors, not inspiration. That is the powerful message he should be sharing and it is the message that can save lives.

You are wacked.

8

 Sep 21, 2015 at 04:46 AM anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
LionofZion Says:

Sorry, he should be speaking about smoke detectors, not inspiration. That is the powerful message he should be sharing and it is the message that can save lives.

Don't be silly. It's not smoke detectors and it's not cars. It's the Malach Hamaves (the Angel of Death) who always finds the perfect place to hide in. If Hashem wants to take them, they could have had smoke detectors and nobody would have heard it, or the smoke detectors could have just then been problematic just like the hot plate was suddenly problematic. It's silly do dwell on that. He should just continue talking about inspiration, emunah, bitachon and tshuva.
May Hashem give him and his wife and daughter the strength to cope with such a humongous loss.

10

 Sep 21, 2015 at 07:45 AM Anonymous Says:

Help suicidal people sounds a priority. At the same time with smoke detectors probably one or more would have died too. You have to beieve llin Bechira / Bashert . Its a thing that takes a whole shiur to think of. Hashem gsve us a bechira but He knows what we will choose . There are tapes and CDs about it. Smoke detectors and equipmentns safety too.

11

 Sep 21, 2015 at 08:09 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
LionofZion Says:

Sorry, he should be speaking about smoke detectors, not inspiration. That is the powerful message he should be sharing and it is the message that can save lives.

And you need a major look in the mirror!

12

 Sep 21, 2015 at 09:18 AM KelevTov Says:

#4 is right on. He should be talking about smoke detectors. From what I have read and heard I am not sure what else he has to offer anyone.

13

 Sep 21, 2015 at 09:29 AM Anonymous Says:

#6 are you J?
He was always a great man, of very low profile. Only his closed ones knew him. Unfortunately tragedy had to reveal his greatness to the world. He could have decided to shut down and willow with life. Instead he got up and his doing through ratzon Hashem by emulating his emunah and bitachon in Hashem and spreading it. Is this not worthy to call him great?! Look at yourself and see Where you are standing in the world! Every person has a tafkid to emulate Hashem and spread light in this world by doing good etc.

14

 Sep 21, 2015 at 10:13 AM Inspired Says:

Hashem should continue to give them all Koach to go on, and a refuah shelama
to the mom and daughter we dont understand Hashems way, we have to accept the life He gives us. May Hashem bring Moshiach speedily in our times

15

 Sep 21, 2015 at 10:16 AM albroker Says:

I honestly get tears in my eyes thinking about him and his wife, the fact they wake up every day makes them tzadikim gemurim. No words can comfort him, nothing. oy meh hoyo lonu.

16

 Sep 21, 2015 at 10:43 AM shoebox Says:

Mr. Sasoon is an inspiration to all. However as a mother of children, I cannot fathom how Mrs. Sasoon copes every single passing day. She gave birth to these children, and spent many sleepless nights raising them, cooking for them, shopping, etc. EVERYTHING. My heart breaks for her. and if she can go on living - SHE IS MY HERO! May Hashem comfort her and bless her with only peace and happiness for the future.

17

 Sep 21, 2015 at 11:46 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
LionofZion Says:

Sorry, he should be speaking about smoke detectors, not inspiration. That is the powerful message he should be sharing and it is the message that can save lives.

רשע!! לא תעמוד על דם רעיך

18

 Sep 21, 2015 at 12:31 PM henna252 Says:

I think the point you are all missing is the message that Hashem is trying to convey to us. Klal YIsroel as a whole is not hearing the message but rather the tragedy, I am not belitting this horrific gezara, but it is one message after another and still no dramatic reaction from benai Yisroel as a whole. What will it take for us all to wake up and cry out to Hashem and do tshuva.

19

 Sep 21, 2015 at 10:43 AM Ina Says:

I stand with #4! Had he had working smoke detectors, this unfathomable tragedy would never have occurred! Stop trying to placate the public with every other kind of nonsense! One day, the authorities will charge the parents with murder for not have had working smoke detectors. There is no excuse for allowing children to reside in a home without them.

20

 Sep 21, 2015 at 01:50 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #19  
Ina Says:

I stand with #4! Had he had working smoke detectors, this unfathomable tragedy would never have occurred! Stop trying to placate the public with every other kind of nonsense! One day, the authorities will charge the parents with murder for not have had working smoke detectors. There is no excuse for allowing children to reside in a home without them.

Were you (and #4 and the others) in that house BEFORE the fire, that you know for a FACT that the smoke detectors did not work and exactly WHY they did not work?

What if the house had an electrical short and had gone up in flames before they could get anywhere, even with working smoke detectors (assuming the smoke detectors were, in fact, not working for whatever reason)?

Do you have the slightest bit of emuna to know that Hashem has His ways regardless of what smoke detectors are or are not in place?

I don't envy your position as we approach Yom Kippur.

21

 Sep 21, 2015 at 02:02 PM anonymous Says:

Reply to #19  
Ina Says:

I stand with #4! Had he had working smoke detectors, this unfathomable tragedy would never have occurred! Stop trying to placate the public with every other kind of nonsense! One day, the authorities will charge the parents with murder for not have had working smoke detectors. There is no excuse for allowing children to reside in a home without them.

Even the parents agree that this tragedy would have happened no matter what. Perhaps with non-working or too quiet smoke detectors or by car accident or who knows how. Hashem is running the world and He wanted it to happen this way. One has to be an apikoress to say otherwise to say it would never have occurred.

22

 Sep 21, 2015 at 02:42 PM Ina Says:

Reply to #20  
Anonymous Says:

Were you (and #4 and the others) in that house BEFORE the fire, that you know for a FACT that the smoke detectors did not work and exactly WHY they did not work?

What if the house had an electrical short and had gone up in flames before they could get anywhere, even with working smoke detectors (assuming the smoke detectors were, in fact, not working for whatever reason)?

Do you have the slightest bit of emuna to know that Hashem has His ways regardless of what smoke detectors are or are not in place?

I don't envy your position as we approach Yom Kippur.

The fire department reported no smoke detectors were in the house. This is unconscionable and what everyone must learn from. These children did not die in a car accident nor was there an electrical short ... so, I don't see it any other way and neither should anyone else!

23

 Sep 21, 2015 at 03:29 PM OYVY2 Says:

Reply to 4 you are correct, if it makes things better for him he can be an inspirational speaker as well, but he also should be speaking about things like smoke detectors and fire drills etc.

24

 Sep 21, 2015 at 03:55 PM Mother Says:

I am horrified at what I have read above. I wonder if klopping Al Cheit is enough for you heartless, cruel people. Smoke detectors? Murder charges? You are beyond sick. The man lost 7 children in one fell swoop and you question why (if??) he gets paid for speaking? I pray G-d never inflicts this level of pain on any of you, so that you never have to go on living in such grief.

25

 Sep 21, 2015 at 07:35 PM LionofZion Says:

I looked in the mirror, klapped al Cheit, and now I implore all of you to follow the Torah and install smoke detectors. The world works according to Teva. Unfortunately, dreadfully, and there were tears in my home too, the Sassons made two terrible mistakes. The first was using an unsafe hot plate and leaving it unattended. This would have been catastrophic, but not deadly, had they not made the second mistake of not installing smoke detectors. Read up or ask a firefighter, we don't have fires in this country with 7 fatalities because we use smoke detectors. So hate me, I don't really care, but protect your children so I don't have to mourn them. Also, please don't blame G-d for the negligence of His people.

26

 Sep 21, 2015 at 08:02 PM whoknows Says:

Reply to #2  
RebKlemson Says:

im not sure he should be a paid inspirational speaker, it kinda takes away from his greatness a bit.

He still has to pay his bills why is it different then any other ruv or teacher...

27

 Sep 21, 2015 at 08:36 PM yid18 Says:

Reply to #4  
LionofZion Says:

Sorry, he should be speaking about smoke detectors, not inspiration. That is the powerful message he should be sharing and it is the message that can save lives.

Sorry, he should maybe be looking for a shrink for you! This was Hashems doing!!!! The fact is the smoke detector would NEVER have worked no matter what, if this is what Hashem wanted the smoke detectors wouldn't have made ANY difference.
look at the reallity. They were meant to go to Jersey for Shabbos and Hashem made it snow so that they would stay home, and if one daughter managed to get out at least several others should have been able to make it out as well. But when Hashem decides (decrees) all the smoke detectors in the world don't help. He should be speaking EXACTLY about what he is speaking! Because the reality is it was Hashem's doing, because that's what he wanted. The one thing you can not fight is Hashem.

28

 Sep 21, 2015 at 08:57 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
LionofZion Says:

Sorry, he should be speaking about smoke detectors, not inspiration. That is the powerful message he should be sharing and it is the message that can save lives.

NUMBER 22 & 23. I have some amazing news for you both. HASHEM RUNS THE WORLD and what happened happened because that is what Hashem wanted to happen! Those poor innocent holy neshomos would have died no matter if the house was covered in smoke detectors BECAUSE HASHEM MADE IT HAPPEN! It's time people start acknowledging that Hashem runs the world and whatever happens is because that is what he decrees. and, it is horrifically WRONG to add such insult to so much injury by blaming the parents in any shape or form what so ever!!!!

29

 Sep 21, 2015 at 11:10 PM Ina Says:

Reply to #28  
Anonymous Says:

NUMBER 22 & 23. I have some amazing news for you both. HASHEM RUNS THE WORLD and what happened happened because that is what Hashem wanted to happen! Those poor innocent holy neshomos would have died no matter if the house was covered in smoke detectors BECAUSE HASHEM MADE IT HAPPEN! It's time people start acknowledging that Hashem runs the world and whatever happens is because that is what he decrees. and, it is horrifically WRONG to add such insult to so much injury by blaming the parents in any shape or form what so ever!!!!

Forgive me, but what are you on? Hashem made smoke detectors so people can protect their lives and certainly the lives of those who are entrusted to them. Again, it was not a fatal car crash or some other awful tragedy. What people need to learn from this horrible tragedy is to take steps to protect themselves and act responsibly.

30

 Sep 22, 2015 at 05:28 PM Anonymous Says:

Very tragic. It happened after a solar eclipse, could it be a sign from G-d? I do not know, but it makes me think of the Time of Jacob's Trouble, Tribulation & rapture. Heartbreaking anyway.

31

 May 04, 2016 at 09:43 PM Anonymous Says:

Everybody is responsible for what they do, but no matter what you do the outcome is from hashem.Yes they should of had smoke detectors in their home,but this is not the reason why these children lost their lives.They lost their lives because hashem wanted it so, yes they should of had smoke detectors.How insensitive of you people are with all these insensitive comments. How about taking out a chovas halvuvos and seeing who had a hand in this tragedy,if you do so, you will be embarassed with your insensitive comments.SHAME ON YOU !!!!!

32

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