Those We Have Lost

Sgt. Maj. Yossi Hershkovitz, 44: Beloved Jerusalem high school principal

Killed in battle in northern Gaza on November 10

Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz (IDF)
Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz (IDF)

Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz, 44, was killed in battle in northern Gaza on November 10.

Hershkovitz, the principal of the ORT Pelech High School for boys in Jerusalem, lived in the West Bank settlement of Gva’ot, in Gush Etzion. He is survived by his wife, Hadas, five children, Be’eri, Halel, Tal, Shira, and Neta, his parents, Yaakov and Ruhama, and his siblings.

“Yossi was a beloved administrator, a first-rate educator, a man of the people, full of love and giving, who saw in front of him the path to doing good and creating a brighter and better world,” said the CEO of the ORT network, Tzvika Peleg. “The ORT family will remember Yossi and will continue to integrate his values and faith and desire to complete and enhance his educational life’s work.”

Hershkovitz was killed alongside his fellow reservists and comrades Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz, Master Sgt. (res.) Matan Meir, and Master Sgt. (res.) Sergey Shmerkin.

The final letter he wrote to his parents, while inside Gaza just days before his death, circulated online after he was killed: “You raised me to give without receiving, and not out of habit, and thank God I am privileged to be part on an incredible nation of incredible people who give from all their soul to the nation.” Hershkovitz added: “How much slander was said about this nation over the past year, and how much was it all a lie. We are all here fighting shoulder to shoulder, as one people with one heart.”

Family and friends of Yossi Hershkovitz mourn at his funeral at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on November 12, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The lifelong educator had worked in the past as a teacher at SAR Academy, a New York Jewish day school, and as an educator at Camp Moshava, a Modern Orthodox US summer camp.

“Yossi’s approach to teaching was rooted in compassion and caring for each student as an individual,” wrote Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, principal of SAR Academy in the Bronx, where Hershkovitz and his wife Hadas taught from 2012-2016. “He was a man of strong ideals and Torah principles, living out his beliefs both in and out of the classroom.”

Hershkovitz’s work as principal of ORT Pelech saw him forge connections with the Mount Scopus Memorial College in Melbourne, Australia, which sends students on a nine-week exchange program to ORT Pelech each year.

“The Mount Scopus community mourns the devastating passing of IDF Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz, who fell in battle in Gaza,” the school wrote in a statement on social media. “Yossi was the much admired principal of the Ort Pelech Boys’ School in Jerusalem… our thoughts are with his wife Hadas and their five children. May his memory be a blessing.”

At his funeral, his daughter, Halel, said “you were and will be the best Dad in the world. You were everything to me. You helped me with everything… send me strength to live, to be happy, to make jokes the way only you knew how… I’ll miss everything — the hug you would give me, the way you said you would always love me, always.”

She said that just a day before he was killed, “when I was in school they told me that my dad was coming to visit. I ran and cried from excitement, but it turned out to be a mistake. I think that I understood even then that you weren’t coming back.”

JTA contributed to this report.

Read more Those We Have Lost stories here. 

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