A Tribute to Sammy Farkas z”l

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Three weeks ago, tragedy struck our high school community when sophomore Sammy Farkas suddenly passed away. Students, faculty, and the community at large were left in grief and shock. Sammy impacted all of us with his infectious smile, infinite compassion, and complete devotion to those around him. The Warrior Word staff spoke with students and faculty to reflect on the special moments shared with Sammy.

Last year, right after the last day of school, I went to his mom’s house to hang out with him and a few other kids. We started eating some snacks and he brought out milk and cookies, and proceeded to eat the whole box himself. Then I came to eat one, then a second, then when I went to eat the third cookie he said, “You guys gotta stop eating my cookies,” and I thought he was serious for a second, but then he began to laugh. I thought that was pretty funny. Then we talked, hung out, and played some Fortnite for about an hour. It was pretty fun to do, especially since we were never really close, so for him to invite me over was pretty cool. -Jonathan Alishayev (10th)

I did lights for the play Almost Maine, and Sammy was in it. Jaclyn, who was supposed to  do the other light, wasn’t there−she had to take a test−so I was basically alone in the back of the auditorium in the dark. They [the actors] were having a break, and I saw Sammy walking up to me. He sat by me because there was a chair beside me, and I asked him what he was doing. He said that he felt bad that I was alone. I told him it was okay, I do this all the time. So he said, yeah but it must suck to be alone in the dark, so I’ll keep you company … He had so much confidence and courage. He was full of light. I don’t think I’ll ever forget him. -Natalie Alishayev (11th)


Sammy always went out of his way to help others and he would stand up for what’s right. Whenever he saw someone alone, or looking down, he would walk up to that person and talk to them. He’d maybe ask them how they felt, or offer them to come over to his house if necessary and comfort them. I really admire this about Sammy. -Oren Abramov (10th)

So my classroom is on the hallway on the third floor by a bunch of lockers, and it’s really nice, because during the passing periods of the day I usually see a lot of students. I see them come by their lockers, and I get to talk to them about their day and it’s really nice. But the best thing about my classroom is that Sammy’s locker is actually right outside the door, and between every single class he would always come into my classroom, and say “Hi, Ms. Ehrlich!” or “Good morning, Ms. Ehrlich!”  or “How’s your day going?” or something like that. I just feel like that really encapsulates him as a person and as a student, and that he was always looking out for people and he’s always checking up on people, and it always brightened my day when I’d be sitting at my desk and be super focused on whatever work I was doing, for Sammy to come in with his bright smile and that spring in his step and ask me how I was doing, even if he had just seen me thirty minutes ago during the last passing period. I really miss that, actually. I realize now, sitting at my desk that there isn’t as much traffic in my classroom or people stopping in. So, it was definitely something I looked forward to as the bell rang. -Ms. Anna Ehrlich (English teacher)

A week or two before Sammy passed, I slept by Ezzy Duchman for Shabbos with a bunch of kids. Anyways, Sammy came over during the day, and I wasn’t in the greatest of moods, and he just came up to me out of nowhere. He said, “I could tell something’s wrong, let’s go to a corner, let’s talk.” He’s in tenth grade, he’s two years younger than me, it’s pretty insane, but I went to talk to him. I was going through some religious issues with my dad, and I told him about it. I’ll never forget, he stopped for two minutes, there was no talking, and he looks at me and goes, “You have to respect your dad, that comes before everything. Your dad is the one who brought you into this world, and he’s everything.” It’s just a small story, but it just shows his character. Sammy was a great person. -Shuee Shaulson (12th)

One day when I was nine or ten years old, I was going to dance class with my brother, Abraham, and Abraham told Sammy, he was like, “You’re coming with us.” Sammy decided to take the class, and it was really funny because he kept trying, and it was really funny. He was really bad, but he still did really good because he was trying. Sammy was like my big brother, and he was such an amazing person, and in whatever he did he always tried his best. I love him for that, and I miss him. -Anna Hirsch (9th)

In relationship to Sammy, the biggest memory I have, or the greatest memory I have, relates to his presence in class, and something that I have told the students since he has passed. The biggest contribution he made was his ability to answer questions that almost no one else could answer. So I would make him wait until the end of the answering period that we were working on, and if no one could get the answer I would merely nod at him, and he would say the correct answer. I found this to be very rewarding and everyone in class recognized his skill level related to honors Algebra II. We will dearly miss this contribution that he made to this class and his future math classes over the next three years. -Mr. Charles Innes (math teacher)

I moved to Miami in the end of the fourth grade. When I got to Hebrew Academy I didn’t know a lot of English and I had trouble making friends, so on my third day of school I just ran to the bathroom and just started crying and crying, and then I heard a door opening behind me and it was Sammy Farkas, and Sammy just really helped me out. He introduced me to a lot of people and he was just there from that point and I miss him a lot. -Ari Zighelboim (9th)

Sammy was a brother to me, and I made some great memories with him, and the kid that I’ll never forget, and I love the kid. -Aorel Abotbol (10th)

So I have to echo a lot of what I’ve heard other people saying, and it really rings true, which is that the thing that was the most noticeable about Sammy was always his smile, and the way that he would always kind of stop into your classroom just to say “Hello.” It’s sad that we don’t have that in the world any longer, but I do think that it was really important and meaningful that he left that legacy for the other kids in the school to grab onto, and I do see the other student’s taking that. The most important thing that you can leave behind in life, you can’t leave anything else really, except the way that you behaved and the way that you treated others. Sammy really was a beautiful child, he was a beautiful person, and he was able to leave that for his friends and to teach them and to teach us as adults how to be a kind, outgoing, fun-loving, person, and at the same time to take life seriously, and to be a serious person about the things that are important and the things that matter. That’s something that I’ll take from him and I’m happy that I had the chance to get to know him this year, and I feel honored that I was able to teach him. -Mrs. Mimi Edwards (science teacher)

So last year we put on this play called Almost Maine and we didn’t have enough people, so Mrs. Berman went around begging people to join and Sammy agreed to join, even though it wasn’t really his thing, along with his brother Alex. The way that the play was set up was that it was a bunch of individual scenes with two people in each one. At auditions Mrs. Berman had us each try out reading different scenes with a bunch of people, and as I was leaving I remember thinking “Please let me get a scene with Sammy,” because even though I had just met him for the first time that day, I saw that he had this happy spirit about him that just made him fun to be around. It’s not really so common for a junior hoping to be paired up with a freshman, but that was the thing about Sammy, he wasn’t really attached to his age, he was just funny and energetic. I ended up getting the scene with him and it was just so fun getting into character and running around stage with him. I really don’t think I saw him frown or complain once throughout all those rehearsals, even when they got pretty brutal like eight or twelve hours long. He was just enthusiastic and excited, and he made everyone else excited, and it seems like such a small thing but it really makes a big impact on people. -Adira Kahn (12th)

Sammy told me this Dvar Torah at a Shabbaton. I was in Bal Harbor, so it went like: An atheist went to a rabbi and he said “How could God create this world? How did God bring this world into existence? It was like the Big Bang Theory. There’s no creator, it just happened.” So, the rabbi showed him a painting and the atheist said it was a very beautiful painting, and he’s like, “Who drew this? It’s such a beautiful work of art!” The rabbi said, “The paint spilled over and it just drew by itself.” So the atheist said, “How is that possible? It can’t just spill over, and a beautiful painting is there.” So the rabbi answers, “The same with the world. Such a beautiful world, how could there be no creator? This is God’s work of art, just like the painting is the work of the artist.” When you hung out with Sammy, he made you appreciate every moment you were with him. he made you appreciate every moment you were existing in life. -Ariel Arwas (11th)

Sammy was one of those students that was just generally curious, one of the greatest kind of students to have in class because he didn’t care about the grades, at least not outwardly. He was happy with an A, happy with a B, he just wanted to ask questions and found things interesting. He just loved learning for the sake of learning. He was intellectually curious and you really don’t see that often. He was unfazed. I feel like if he felt like he learned something that day, he was very happy, even if it didn’t show up with him getting an A on the homework or the test or whatever it was. He helped the other kids when they struggled, obviously, and I’m sure everyone has mentioned the way he treats everyone, how happy he was. He’d bop out every day. “Thank you, Mr. Curley. Thank you, Mr. Curley.” -Mr. John Curley (history teacher)

So, it was maybe a few years ago Sammy walked up to me, I don’t even really remember what we were doing, it was just that he walked up to me and was like “Hey bro, I’m sorry.” I was like “Oh, why? What did you do?” And he’s like “Hold on, can you forgive me?” I was like, “Well it depends on what you did.”… When we were in the JCC camp he stole a toy from me and never returned it and then, maybe eleven years later, he came to me and he apologized for it. So, I thought that was kind of funny. -Uri Kruger (10th)

It was in seventh grade, and I was brainstorming ideas for my Purim costume with my mom that year, when we finally decided on a costume to build. We decided on dressing up as a rollercoaster. I realized that I would need someone to be in the costume with. So after narrowing it down, I decided that I would ask Sammy. I then texted him and asked if he had a costume for Purim yet, and he said no, so I proposed the idea to him, and he automatically said, “Of course I will be it with you!” And I was so excited to wear that costume with him. The day finally came, and I could barely contain my excitement. It was a big moment, and I remember Sammy’s smile as he walked toward the costume. Throughout the day, we would complain about the heaviness of the costume and about how we were exhausted from carrying it on our backs. It was an amazing day overall, and Sammy’s smile will never be forgotten. Love you and miss you Sam. -Harel Twito (10th)

So a really good memory I have from Sammy, and I think everyone does share this, it really was standing out, is the fact that every time there was a Debate Midrash Sammy would always stick to his brother’s side and would always make his opinion become stronger. I really liked to see how much love and support the brothers had. Especially since I have three boys, and it really is amazing. I think it’s a big legacy for us to try to enhance the relationship between our children, our families, our students, and just the love that he had, and the admiration that he had, and the respect he had for his brother was really really outstanding. Everyone could see it, they literally declared it every time we had Debate Midrash. To see such great love among brothers is amazing, because it’s not natural. A lot of times you see that brothers have fights over stupid stuff. Here you see that they were so so connected and so really into each other, making sure to strengthen their opinions, and to show how much I like my brother. It was public, and I loved it, and I’m sure it was also in the way they treated each other and from everyone’s stories. So, I loved it, and that’s a big, big message that I take from him. – Morah Oryan Koriat (Judaics teacher)

So, Sam and I sat next to each other in chemistry class, and one week we were doing a unit about something math related. Sam was really good at doing quick math in his head, so he usually finished the work first. One day, he and I are both done, and he goes to the back of the room and grabs a handful of popsicle sticks from the box that one of the other classes was using for the bridge project. He brings the popsicle sticks back over to where we sat, and he starts intertwining them in a such a way that if they are dropped, they’ll fly everywhere. So once I finished the work, he showed me how to do it. From then on, whenever we finished our work early, we’d just start messing around with popsicle sticks for the rest of class. –Yosef Fruhman (10th)

Sammy was part of my group during the eighth grade trip to Washington and we were together for everything. One of the trips was at Six Flags and it was very hot outside. Sammy had this cap that he was obsessed with, and I have pictures of him always wearing it. He never took it off, but he noticed that I was struggling in the heat, so he handed me his cap. To this day, I have a picture on my phone of me wearing his cap, which was huge on me, bearing the caption of “Thanks Sammy!” I frequently look back at that photo, and I know that it’s something I’ll always remember. -Ella Zaret (10th)

So one of the things Sammy used to do was, basically I’m a dancer, and he would always try and copy me and dance with me and it was the funniest thing ever. Sam has always inspired me to be more than I am supposed to be. He was always there for me and he always made me happy. I don’t know, every time we looked at each other we were just happy, like there were no problems ever between me and Sammy, like we never argued and I knew him for ten years. -Abraham Hirsch (10th)

So it is very hard to talk about Sammy. In the past, he was a foundation for me starting my history in the building because when I came here, the first day I was very insecure about leading the Sephardic Minyan and I remember that I walked into the room and Sammy was looking at me, with his beautiful smile and beautiful eyes, and said, “What’s cookin’, good lookin’?” and for me that changed my day, changed my year, changed my everything, and every morning the high five and smile and everything. I miss him, I truly miss him because he never knew but he made my transition to Hebrew Academy such a nice and amazing transition. -Rabbi Ariel Koriat (Judaics teacher)

So the night that Sammy passed we were talking about how he was getting his license the next day, so he was like “Yo, Mich, I’m so excited, tomorrow I’m gonna bring everyone Dunkin. I’m so excited, my birthday’s tomorrow, I’m getting my car, and one day I’m gonna be able to teach my kids how to drive just like my dad taught me.” I know it’s sad now, but really he’s an amazing kid, and I’m always gonna love him. -Michaela Acevedo (10th)

I just want to generally say that I’ve been teaching for so many years, and there’s always been students that stood out, and Sammy was the student that stood out. Not just because we lost him so tragically, but just because of who he was. The smile, which is how I would quantify him, so refined, always a thank you and a please, always respectful and appreciative. You kind of got a glimpse, a little bit, into the kind of person that Sammy would have grown into. He would’ve made a wonderful father, wonderful friend, and those are the memories that I keep in my mind of who Sammy was, and even though he may not become the things that he could’ve become, but in my mind he will become those things with time, so those are my special memories of Sammy. -Mrs. Tirza Schapiro (Judaics teacher) Li’Ilui Nishmat Yitzchak ben Moshe David

For the elevation of the soul of Sammy Farkas (Yitzchak ben Moshe David)

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