The New York City father of seven children killed in a kitchen fire sobbed during his eulogy Sunday, calling the youngsters ranging in age from 5 to 16 "angels." Gabriel Sassoon, an Orthodox Jew, told the hundreds of mourners gathered at Shomrei Hadas Chapels in Brooklyn his children were "the best and most beautiful" in the world.
“They were so pure. They all had faces of angels. Hashem [God] knows how much I love them,” Sassoon said, sobbing out their names one at a time: Eliane, 16; David, 12; Rivkah, 11; Yeshua, 10; Moshe, 8; Sara, 6; and Yaakob, 5. The children died of burns when a hot plate in the kitchen of their home caught fire Saturday. Fire officials said there was only one smoke detector in the house, and it was in the basement.
The New York Post said Sassoon described his children as "a sacrifice" to the community. “They were a burnt offering. I lost everything in the fire. Seven pure sheep. Those are my seven children,” he said. Sassoon urged mourners to "love your child. … Understand them."
Sassoon's wife Gayle, 45, and 15-year-old daughter, Siporah, were hospitalized in critical condition with burns, the New York Daily News reported, and were unaware of what happened to the rest of the family. Both leaped from the second story.
Gayle Sassoon had planned to take her children to her parents' home in New Jersey for the weekend but canceled the trip because of a snowstorm. Gabriel Sassoon was out of town at a religious retreat.
The Post said about 1,000 people lined up outside the funeral home for the service. The children were to be buried in Jerusalem.
State Assemblyman Dov Hikind said scam artists launched a phony fundraising campaign in the family's name, Reuters reported. "People's heart aches -- Jew and non-Jew alike. They want to help. We don't want you to waste your money," he said in urging people not to be taken in.
The fire was New York City's deadliest since a 2007 Bronx blaze killed nine children. Near the Brooklyn home, the Fire Department handed out pamphlets titled, "Fire Safety for Jewish Observances," along with smoke detectors and batteries.
"I called my own daughter, who has six kids, to tell her to stop using that hot plate," Hikind said.