A grieving father who lost seven of his eight children in a devastating fire broke down as he mourned them during his eulogy.
“They all had faces of angels. Hashem [God] knows how much I love them,” Gabriel Sassoon said during the tribute to his children, whom he lost early Saturday morning when a hot plate was left on and started a fire in the family’s home. “People forget what’s important in life. My children were unbelievable. They were the best. But the truth is, every child is the best. Every child is the most beautiful child there is in the world. Every child is like that.”
The Brooklyn father sobbed as he recited the names of his seven cherished kids, ages 5 to 16.
“They were a burnt offering. I lost everything in the fire. Seven pure sheep. Those are my seven children,” he said. Sassoon was away at a religious retreat when the flames destroyed his home. His wife, Gayle, and 14-year-old daughter, Siporah, survived after jumping from the second floor of the home. They were both hospitalized and were last listed in critical condition.
Witnesses at the scene told authorities that they heard the children inside the home, screaming for their mother. Gayle, according to reports, pleaded with onlookers to help get her children out. Some of the children were pronounced dead at the scene, while others died at hospitals.
State assemblyman Dov Hikind said that the family had planned to spend the Sabbath in New Jersey with family, but changed their plans due to the snowstorm and ended up staying at home the night that the fire erupted.
“The family had been planning to spend Shabbos [the Sabbath] in Deal, New Jersey, but had changed their minds because of the snowstorm. And then this happened,” Hikind said. “It’s an unbelievable tragedy.”
Former neighbor Nomi Weinfeld, who lived near the family in Jerusalem before they moved to Gayle’s family home in Brooklyn a year and a half ago, called the mother a “wonderful person” and an “iron woman.”
“I love her Brooklyn accent. She is very wholesome. She’s very focused on doing the right thing and being a good mother,” Weinfeld said. “The younger kids were very close. Very best friends. They spoke just last week. They were sweet and polite but fun. Zippy, funny. Just great company.”
Two thousand people attended the funeral, gathering in the streets outside of the funeral home where Sassoon laid his children to rest. A procession of SUVs drove the coffins to JFK airport, where they boarded a flight to Jerusalem to be buried.
On Sunday night, Sen. Chuck Schumer spoke at a vigil outside the family’s home. Schumer offered his condolences to the family, saying that the “entire city is in mourning.”
“There’s no greater loss than when a parent buries a child,” Schumer said. “The Sassoons have buried seven.”