Park Slope says goodbye to Sammy Cohen-Eckstein

Few words, many tears at Sammy’s funeral

Sammy Cohen-Eckstein’s parents trail their son’s casket after the 12-year-old’s funeral at Congregation Beth Elohim yesterday afternoon.
for The Brooklyn Paper
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They came to Congregation Beth Elohim on Eighth Ave. from all directions dressed in black, men and women and girls — and lots and lots of young boys in rarely worn suits matched with soccer shoes. They gathered to comfort a Park Slope family after the devastating loss of their beloved 12-year-old son Sammy, who was tragically struck by a van and killed Tuesday evening on Prospect Park West.

There were few words, just tear-stained faces and the occasional hard hugs as friends and family consoled one another on the steps leading up to the grand 1,000-seat chapel, which was nearly full by the time Kolot Chayeinu Rabbi Ellen Lippmann stood to address those gathered.

“We long for goodness and mercy. It is unimaginable that Sammy is gone, that he will not have his bar mitzvah on Nov. 16, but…” she said sympathetically, looking especially at Sammy’s mother, Amy Cohen, his father Gary Eckstein and his sister Tamar —longtime friends and congregants of her temple. “This is real and you are completely unprepared.”

Nothing can prepare a close family and a tight-knit community for the sudden loss of one of its brightest stars, a soccer-playing, snowboarding trumpeter with an infectious dimpled smile, a sweet gracious manner, and loads and loads of promise.

Rabbi Lippmann spoke of Sammy as a “great student full of insight and questions,” quoting from his own bar mitzvah speech on the difficulty of forgiveness as example.

“He said, ‘I find it hard to forgive. Why? Because of stubbornness…’ ” she read. “ ‘We often criticize others, but then we act the same way.’ ”

She linked his prescient thought to the need for forgiveness of the press whose articles in the wake of the tragedy seemed to “rush to judgment to blame Sammy for running into the street.” In actuality, she said, he was wearing cleats, and he slipped and tripped in front of the van, which was unable to stop in time.

Sobs could hardly be contained as Sammy’s sister Tamar spoke of the great loss of her talented, funny brother with whom she would sit and talk, whose absence during even four short weeks at camp was so difficult.

“I kept expecting you,” she said, breaking down at the idea that the temporary feeling is now so irreparably permanent.

Sammy’s mother Amy spoke beautifully, expressing so honestly how she felt “at a crossroads between the land of the living or following along where Sammy has gone…”

“I am wracked with guilt that I could not do more to protect him,” she said.

But in his short life, Sammy’s great humor, strength and zest for living were an inspiration to so many.

“There is a hole in our hearts that won’t be filled,” Sammy’s father Gary said, “But we’re here not just to mourn but to celebrate the life of a bright light that touched so many people. I hope that bright light lives on as a blessing.”

For his family and the many young friends that gathered to celebrate Sammy, that will certainly be true.

Brooklyn Prospect student Jack Golick spoke sadly of the loss of his best friend of nearly nine years.

“He was principled in his thoughts,” he said, then shook his head and took his seat.

Rabbi Lippmann ended the beautiful homage with the inspirational directive to take something positive from the tragedy.

“Build a new world from the love and grace and joy Sammy brought to so many lives.”

Read Fearless Parenting every other Thursday on

The Cohen-Eckstein family will sit shiva at their home at 75 Prospect Park West, #6D, Friday from 2 to 5 pm, Saturday from 8 to 10 pm and Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 3 to 8 pm. Donations may be made to Transportation Alternatives or Heifer International.

Updated 10:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

stefanie from bay ridge says:
and a plug for the house frau's column! classy!
Oct. 11, 2013, 8:25 am
Jbob from PS says:
Seriously, plugging your column at the end of this piece? You should be ashamed of yourself!
Oct. 11, 2013, 11:23 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
The plug is no big deal. People need to get over their faux-rage
Oct. 11, 2013, 3:07 pm
Lisa Albin from Park Slope says:
What you wrote about this sacred & somber moment was appreciated and sensitive. But this photo? It is shocking and in poor taste that you would publish it. I hope that you will remove it for the family's sake. Having to be thrust into the public eye at this time of unbearable pain is too much.
Oct. 11, 2013, 4:08 pm
Jim from Park Slope says:
Stephanie -
A beautiful article that must have been hard to write. Thank you.
Oct. 11, 2013, 4:44 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
Agree with Lisa.
Oct. 11, 2013, 4:55 pm
A community in mourning from Park Slope says:
Take down the image of his casket at once!
Oct. 11, 2013, 5:18 pm
Also offended from Park Slope South says:
The picture of the family at Sammy's funeral is wrong as well!
Oct. 11, 2013, 5:26 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
not a thing wrong with the pics -it allows others to share their grief.
Oct. 12, 2013, 10:02 am
Amanda jean from Park slope says:
Sammy was a very good person! One of my classmates and I am still in denial that he has gone. It is hard for us students now at 51 to pay attention in class and to enjoy our free lunch time without the joy and enthusiasm of Sammy! R.I.P Sammy we love you!
Oct. 12, 2013, 1:43 pm
Prospect Heights Resident from Prospect Heights says:
There is nothing wrong with the pictures! This was a high profile death and a picture of the casket being carried in a dignified manner is not inappropriate. They show it with military and other funerals all of the time. I would be upset if the author did not produce a casket picture and one of the family; it allows readers to share in the family's grief. What is the problem with some of you people??
Oct. 12, 2013, 7:03 pm
Kate from Park Slope says:
Correction: it was my son who spoke; his name is Jack GOLICK, not Bullock. And he didn't take his seat after saying Sammy was principled. He continued his comments until he was finished.
Oct. 12, 2013, 10:49 pm
ansel from adams st. says:
and it's a lousy photo to boot, sloppy composition, too far away. blech
Oct. 12, 2013, 11:47 pm
Jake from Clinton Hill says:
People must be in a lot of pain to express such outrage over this article.
Oct. 13, 2013, 8:29 am
jay itkowitz from Boerum Hill says:
There is nothing worse in life than losing a child. May the family be comforted among the Mourners of Zion.
Oct. 14, 2013, 12:39 pm
John Wasserman from Windor Terrace says:
Hi Ansel, my name is John Wasserman, and I'm going to have to kindly disagree with you. I think the photo is very telling, and the distances are truly artistic. If you'll observe the top right hand corner: the walk sign and the don't walk sign, sitting right next to each other, for example. Pardon the interruption, but are you familiar with the cover art of "Abby Road" by the Silver Bullet Band (I beleive that's the correct band)?
Oct. 14, 2013, 1:34 pm
John Wasserman from Windsor Terrace says:
Also, you'll notice a woman suspended in mid air, if you don't mind. Congratualtions, Elizabeth Graham.
Oct. 14, 2013, 1:40 pm
Jack's Mom from Park Slope says:
Jack also said, "I've always been 2 days older than Sammy; today I am 3 days older than Sammy," in addition to commenting on the many sports teams they'd been on together, and yes, how he was principled in his ideas, _and_ went on to say Sammy didn't change his ideas bc people disagreed with him. Stating that Jack spoke 1/2 a sentence and then trailed off and sat down doesn't do him credit. But of course, all that matters is that our Dear Sammy is gone.
Oct. 15, 2013, 2:42 pm
Mike Keenan from Park Slope says:
This is a dramatic photograph of loving parents looking on at their beloved Sammy. It is sad but it is part of how we say goodbye. I knew Sammy only from pick-up games, and have coached teams against him several times, he was a great kid and player. We are very saddened by the family's loss. I have photographed funerals for national news broadcasts, including that of JFK Jr. and this was really no different. G_d bless him and his mourning family.
Oct. 22, 2013, 1:09 pm
Edith Ovadia from Midwood says:
I heard about Sammy from my 11 year old heart is heavy from grief..I pray that his family will find comfort in his memory and find the strength to get through this terrible time
Nov. 2, 2013, 8:17 am

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