Amir’s Yahrzeit – Speech by Shoshana Lopatin at the cemetery

Amiri – I am suppose to speak about you, but what I want to do is speak to you. I want to tell you how proud of you we are. I want to tell you how many people you have touched. I want to tell you that I think of you every day. I want to tell you that we’ve all been recycling more, hiking more, and we all try to bike, carpool and use public transportation more. Did you know that mom stopped licking the drips from the salad dressing bottle and I’ve stopped laughing at my own jokes? We even all played ultimate the other day. (Truth is I didn’t actually play but I did those practice throws running around in circles like you taught me — you who played with me even though I sucked and made certain we tossed a frisbee in every green space in Munich we could find, you who dragged me to play in Englewood on Shabbos when I was a lump, you who tossed with me in Cambridge until we hit the car, you who taught me to throw over my head in Central Park.)

Amiri – We want you to know it’s been a terrible year, and as time passes its getting harder because you seem further and further away.

Amiri – we want to tell you that we miss you. We miss your crooked mischievous smile. We miss the way you bring your hands up by your chest when you giggle. We miss your Simpson inspired high-pitched laugh. We miss your interesting insights into everything. We miss your provocative questions. We miss reading your chicken scratch handwriting. We miss joining you in passionate discourse. We miss watching you do core stabilization exercises. We miss learning about your newfound ways to improve efficiency and increase knowledge – like your newfound habit of listening to books on tape while you jog or the note-taking shareware software you developed before your first semester at Stanford even started. We miss seeing you nap on the blue couch. We miss watching you play computer games. We also miss watching you erase the games from your computer so you wouldn’t be addicted but then going to Mikey’s to play anyway.

Amiri – we miss your ideas. We miss talking to you. We miss being loved by you. We miss you making us laugh.

Amiri – personally I need to tell you that I miss being your sister. I miss you sitting on my bed and pelting me with stuffed animals.

Amiri – I miss listening to your problems and giving you advice. I miss telling you my problems and getting your advice. I miss sharing insights about Mom, Dad, Uri. I miss you. We miss you.

Amiri – I want you to know that its true what they say – that when great people die – a little bit of each of us dies with them. Amiri – we are so much less without you. I miss you. I love you.

Stephanie Gros’ Eulogy for Amir

Amour Amir
by Stephanie Gros
March 28, 2004

Amiri was generous with his friendship and appreciative of the love which he received. Last weekend, Amiri and I spent Shabbat together in my apartment in Los Angeles. One of the best weekends of my life – it included deep conversation into the wee hours of the morning, a long jog in which we delved into each others lives, and a Saturday night roller coaster ride on the Santa Monica pier where I screamed so much my throat hurt. Amiri even impressed my roommate by washing the dishes after our Shabbat guests had left on Friday night.

I was struck by how happy Amiri was. It made sense. Having known Amir for many years, he was at a point in his life when he had found what he wanted to do – merge computers and education. And he had found where he wanted to do it – Stanford. As a fellow 27 year old, professionally, what more could we ask for?

I remember September 1990 – my first day of high school. The boy next to me in math class introduced himself as Amir Lopatin. “The Amir Lopatin – so this was Uri’s little brother.” We instantly felt the bond between us. We sat next to each other in math every year after that.

Our brothers had become best friends as they went through Ramaz. Pirkei Avot teaches us about the ultimate, highest form of love – the love between David and Yonatan.
-Our brothers, Uri and David-Alexandre have that kind of love.
-Amiri and Jonathan Wolfson have that kind of love.

Amiri was my friend with the open, sensitive eyes. He took in the world around him. He was always asking questions. He was always analyzing everything. In the words of Pirkei Avot: [ASHIR, HACHAM, GIBOR] [Who is rich? Who is smart? What is strength? What is happiness?] Our conversations always reinforced the answer: Who is Intelligent? He who learns from everyone. Amiri learned from everyone and everything around him.

Amiri felt a tremendous bond to the Jewish community. Over the months when his father was ill, he was openly appreciative and deeply touched by the warm spirit and loving support that the community displayed. It made him want to contribute to the wider Jewish community. At Stanford, he made daily minyan a part of his regular routine and found great solace in saying kaddish for his father.

Amir, you taught me about friendship.

Amir, you taught me what it means to love and care … for a father … and a mother.

Amir, you taught me to open my eyes and be sensitive to the world.

Amir, you gave me a forum to talk about things that I couldn’t talk to anyone else about.

Amir, you taught me about life.

Amir, you have been my teacher and my friend.
Wherever, I go – whatever I do – what I have learned from you will influence who I am and the decisions that I make.

To me, the Lopatin family is the model of friendship.

I will miss you.
— We will all miss you.

Shoshana Lopatin’s Eulogy for Amir

Jonathan and Amir were best of friends. Birds of a feather. Both frighteningly brilliant. Both insightful and both unconventional. They were constantly getting into trouble at Ramaz for their unwillingness to live by the rules of the establishment. On one occasion, my parents were called in to the Principal’s office because Amir and Jonathan had once again refused to tuck in their shirts. Upon confronting Amir with his felony Amir answered I can’t do it – it’s too combine. Frankly, my mother never understood what he meant but just assumed that he was expressing his disdain for convention. We finally looked up the words today – an association of persons for commercial or political, often unethical purposes. I mean no disrespect to Ramaz but I have to hand it to Amir that he had a way with words. I loved his healthy disregard for convention and his critical approach to experience – every belief he tested against his own conscience and his own judgment only.

Amir was my favorite person in the world. Whenever I finished a conversation with him I couldn’t help but smile. Life seemed more worthwhile, more hopeful and more honest. In one of our last conversations Amir told me that whenever I was faced with a decision I should make that decision from an optimist’s standpoint. I should assume that any path I chose would have a good outcome. He had such beautiful dreams and convictions and I felt that I had a place in the world because I was loved by him.

William Phelps wrote that the happiest people are those who think the most interesting thoughts. Amir had the most interesting thoughts. It was so incredible to talk to him and such a privilege to be invited into the life of his mind. It is not something that I can explain only something that one must experience. I would like to end by reading you a poem that Amir wrote in 1994 – ten years ago while a student at Ramaz.

[read Journey I]

Amiri – you had the most interesting thoughts and you were the happiest of people. So how did you know already ten years ago that “together had departed”?

Sara Lopatin’s Eulogy for Amir

Words by Sarah Lopatin at Amir’s Funeral, Sunday 28 March 2004

Amir Shaihe Lopatin

Born: February 10 1976 — died March 25 2004, Age 28, 3 weeks

Cause of death: Car accident at 2pm on a Nevada highway. He lost control of the car, it somersaulted and hit a rock. Amir was pronounced dead upon arrival at the medical center. His friend is in ICU at Las Vegas Hospital center.

Amir was an excellent driver. He was neither drunk nor under any influence. Amir was wearing a seat belt. His car was barely 3 month old. We don’t know why he swerved, why the balloons did not engage, why the car did not withstand the rolling over…… It was a freak accident. A freak accident took my son’s life while he was on Spring break. He and his friends had planned this vacation long in advance and he was so excited, happy and looking forward to it. Next week he was to have come home to spend the first days of Pesach with Shoshana, Uri and myself in Washington. How was I looking forward to seeing him and to hear him tell us of his vacation experience??

And then we were going to make plans for my coming to see him at Stanford. I had not yet been there. We were looking forward for him to show me his new surroundings. He thought Stanford was beautiful. In one of his first e-mails he wrote me: Mommy, it is unbelievably beautiful here, the campus is lush and the vegetation gorgeous. Imagine I have a lemon tree growing right outside my window… He loved his course work, liked his peers and his professors. He was happy with himself and with his decision to pursue a career in academia. And we all were so proud of him. It is no simple matter for a young man who had a well paying job, good career potential, in a familiar environment, close to his friends and family, to resign and to go back to graduate school.

Amir was a beautiful person inside and out. He was handsome; he had the sweetest smile, and infectious laughter. He had the most interesting thoughts. He was unassuming, helped eagerly and he was such fun to be with. He was a loyal friend, he was easygoing and laid back. He had all kinds of interests and hobbies and was involved in so many different things. While at Ramaz he belonged to a math club, chess club, he loved English literature. He participated in a Shakespearean play, wrote beautiful poetry, realized that he liked to paint and do photography. When he attended to Brown, he learned how to sail, loved it and then taught underprivileged kids in a New York outdoor program how to sail. During his 4 years at Brown he was a member of a help organization that fed the hungry. He would come home to NY, see us for a day and then live in a youth hostel with his classmates where they would wake early every morning to cook for and feed the homeless. He tried to engage the men and women that he met in conversation and help them if possible to pull out from their rut.

After Brown he accepted a position in a large software design company in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked on developing simulation programs for the military industry including a tank simulator and a 3-d head tracking system. We were so impressed with how Amir could make friends and a place for himself in such a foreign place. One thing he took advantage of during that year were the continuing education classes at the University of Utah which were paid for by his company. Jossi and I were so pleased to hear that Amiri was continuing to learn and we asked him: Well Amir, what courses are you taking?

I shall never forget my husband’s face when Amir told him sweetly: Well I am taking one class in fly-fishing and one in white water rafting….Jossi and visited him for a weekend in Salt Lake City and he gave us such a great time. He handpicked the just-right room in a Bed and Breakfast close to him. Cooked a beautiful Sabbath meal and after Sabbath. He introduced us to his favorite hiking trails. He took us to Evans & Sutherland and he even let us try out the simulation machines for pilot training that he was involved in writing.

When he came back to NY, he was involved in a big brother program. He tried hard to teach his young protégé learning skills and he was constantly purchasing new science and experiment kits with the hope that his young “little brother” would feel an excitement to learn.

He always wanted a dog. Before he went out to get one so on his own he wanted to make sure that he would be responsible enough. So, he volunteered to become a dog walker for the animal league in New York City. He loved his little mutt and kept telling us how much he looked forward to walking her and I remember how upset he was when one day, his little dog that he thought of as his, was adopted by someone else.

He loved to play ultimate. It’s a kind of Frisbee game. He belonged to the ultimate league at Brown. And in NY when he realized how haphazard and unorganized the playing was he took it on himself to form the NY ultimate league. He took this job very seriously. He was in charge of having all the fields throughout the tristate area reserved for the games. He ordered and designed shirts for all the different level players. Kept the bookkeeping. And it became a real institution. He belonged to the Sierra outdoors club, he was a very serious recycler and he taught me many tricks on how to be a responsible citizen. For example: did you know that the lint from your dryer makes an excellent mulch? Or that torn stockings are excellent for holding up vines?

He liked to cook. He belonged to a kosher food coop in Brown and also now at Stanford he had rejoined a food co-op. One of my favorite dishes that he liked to make was peanut noodles, and he made excellent oatmeal cookies.

When his father was sick, he was at his bedside all the time. He did anything to make things easier for his father. He came to live at home with us during the last 3 months of my husband’s life. He never complained, nothing was ever too much for him.

Amir would always help me with my computer problem although the lesson he taught me most was Mommy RTFM. This was secret code for read the darn manual, but it was also Amir’s way of saying that I should have confidence in my own ability to solve problems.

Amir was full of promise and happiness. He understood best how to live life. In his short life he accomplished more good works and touched more hearts then many three times his age. I am so proud of him that he lived his life so fully. He was the apple of my eye.

Rabbi Aryeh Stechler’s Eulogy for Amir 3/28/04 at Congregation Ahavath Torah

This weekend I saw a degree of strength that I had never seen before. Dr. Susman relayed to me how the Lopatin family sat around the Shabbat table discussing the parsha, with the Las Vegas Rabbi and his seven children. Everyone in this room looks up to the Lopatins as role models of Gevruah [strength]. Out of the entire family, it was Amir who most closely resembled Yossi’s bold strength amidst all adversity – cool, calm, focused and determined, no matter how difficult the challenge. He was true to his name – Amir – which means strength. Amir needs you to be stronger than ever.

There were two things about Amir that I found both unique and incredible and I believe they are hinted to in his name. The first two letters – “A” “M” – stand for Emet [A,M,T – truth]. He was a true person – true to himself and honest to the world. He had no need for the games we all play – doing things we don’t believe in and saying things we don’t mean. Everything Amir did, he did sincerely out of the depths of his being.

When I became close with the Lopatin children immediately after Yossi’s death, Amir was the hardest to get friendly with. He did not care for idle small talk and he had no desire for the trite things people say when they try to make others feel better. But when we finally had a chance to talk at length, Amir became my deepest friend. We had intimate conversations about his spiritual quest – how he despised ceremonious heartless adhesion to ritual, and how he yearned for a true connection to G-d and the Jewish community. When I suggested that we pay someone to be a shomer [guard] for Amir’s body for Shabbat, the family felt that Amir would not have wanted that. Although that would certainly have fulfilled the minhag [custom] of shemirah [watching over a dead person’s body], for Amir to be guarded by a stranger who meant nothing to him, would have been a missed opportunity for a much deeper religious experience. Thus, the Lopatins insisted that only close family and friends should watch Amir, even though it meant that Sarah and Uri would walk over nine miles. For Amir, being true to yourself and being honest about who you are, are prerequisites to being a human being. To be truthful is to emulate G-d to the highest degree. “Emet hee Chosamo shel Hakadosh Baruch Hu” – “Truth is the signature of G-d.”

The second part of his name the “Y” “R” – reminds me of the word “YoReh” – to teach. Amir was a successful computer professional. He succeeded at every task any job could throw at him. However, one day he realized that he wanted more. He began studying with inner city children to help them achieve academically. Then one day, in a blink of an eye, he rerouted his entire life. He left his lucrative positions in the computer world to begin a degree in computer education – to teach people through his love – computers. His own self-actualization was not enough for him -he needed to transmit knowledge to others, to help other achieve their aspirations in life. He was a Moreh par excellance.

Shoshana told me how he would chat with his students about their relationships with girls in order to form a bond with them. When discussing his own relationships with Shoshana he would often jokingly quote the theories of his very young students as if they were his own, impersonations included. His desire to be the ultimate teacher afforded him the ability to bond with his students to such a degree that their words became his own, and that their lives intertwined with his.

“Moshe Emet VeTorato Emet” – “Moshe [Moses] is truth and his teaching is Truth.” Amir was our Moshe [Moses].

He had these two dreams, to be an exemplar of Emet [truth] and to be a creative Moreh [teacher]. Most people have dreams and they are granted the time and the opportunities to make those dreams reality. For some reason, which we can never understand, Amir was not granted that opportunity. But he was a magnificent dreamer. It is incumbent upon me, everyone else who knew Amir and all those standing in this room today to make an unbreakable promise to Amir, to swear to him that his dreams will be fulfilled. Every time we holdfast to Emet [truth], when we act honestly with our family, friends, G-d and with our own selves, we will make Amir’s dream a reality. Every time we think creatively about the education of our children, our community and the world, we will transform Amir’s vision into existence. Amir had very high standards for himself for what it means to a person and a Jew, and we must not and we will not let him down. We will realize his dreams.

[Besides for my family, I cannot think of anything I have ever done that I am more proud of then going this past Shabbat as a representative of the Englewood and Teaneck communities to be with the Lopatin and Wolfson families. I would be remiss if I did not mention the courage and kindness showed over the weekend by three very special people. Dr. Jonathon Sussman – no words are large enough to describe how much he did for the Lopation family. Beyond his medical prowess, which was invaluable to the situation on many levels, his compassion and support saved their lives and mine. D.A. and Stephanie, you are clearly children to Sarah, brother and sister to Shoshana and Uri, and your bond with Amir remains so very deep. Your presence and support for the family was essential, and thank you again D.A. for Friday night.]

Mikey and Benji’s Eulogy for Amir

We’ve been asked to relate a story about our friend Amir, and, in keeping with Jewish custom during the month of Nissan, will focus on celebrating Amir’s life.

Those of us who knew Amir know that no eulogy or anecdote–no matter how pithy or exemplary–could possibly distil his essence. Amir’s magnificence was, and will always be, larger than words, his measure more fully felt than thought, his totality better represented in the broken hearts of the people who today fill the shul to honor and say goodbye to him. So please accept these few words as a modest attempt to share a small, but meaningful, part of the Amir that we know and love.

By 8th grade, Amir had firmly established his intellectual prowess. He casually used words like “victual” and “asunder;” had mastered world-domination games like Axis & Allies; had taken, and scored well on, the SAT’s; knew “basic” computer language; and had written reams of short stories, all the while innocently assuming that his friends were as smart and productive as he was. But we weren’t. As it turned out, many of Amir’s closest friends were sports-lovers. And while he was reading his dog-eared copy of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, we were off playing sports, specifically basketball. Realizing that athletics served as a more likely common ground between him and his friends than literature, Amir took it upon himself to learn the one thing he hadn’t–basketball. He asked his father to put a hoop up in the driveway, traded in his Velcro sneakers for high-tops, folded up his glasses, and bought a Spalding. As in everything he did, Amir was a quick study. Months of dedicated practice showed Amir and his friends that, indeed, he was an athlete. But for Amir it wasn’t enough to simply play the game; Amir wanted to make the Moriah school team. Sure enough, after two grueling tryouts, Amir was issued a uniform and a schedule–he had made the squad.

It’s only a small story, but it illustrates one of Amir’s greatest qualities–his remarkable passion for self-improvement, a passion he demanded of, and inspired in, his friends. Amir knew his friends’ weaknesses and, quietly and sensitively, challenged us to confront and overcome them. We, his lucky friends, have been shaped by him, taught by him, touched by him, moved by him, and made better by him, and we will carry him (and his perfect laugh) in our hearts wherever we go.

–Ben Prager and Mikey Allen, 3/28/04