The Nine Days have been filled with sorrow for the Jewish people for generations, but this year’s period of mourning became even more pronounced with the passing of 27-year-old Jarred Paluzzi, a longtime member of the Chai Lifeline family.
A resident of Lake Mary, Florida, located just north of Orlando, Jarred first came to Chai Lifeline in 1996 after being diagnosed with liver cancer at age five. After being showered with love and affection from Chai Lifeline, the Paluzzis, an unaffiliated Jewish family, welcomed the much-needed outside support. Jarred was soon enjoying birthday, Chanukah and Purim gifts from Chai Lifeline as well as the friendship and encouragement of his Big Brother. A few years later, he joined other children with cancer on the annual Ohr Meir trip to Disneyworld, where he spent four wonderful days with children who understood the challenges of his young life.
As Jarred neared his bar mitzvah, his mother contacted Chai Lifeline to help him prepare for this major milestone. In time, Jarred made his way to Niagara Falls with Chai Lifeline and ultimately to Camp Simcha where he instantly became one of the most beloved figures on campus.
“He was just the nicest guy in the world who never spoke a bad word about anybody,” said Tzviki Manies, Jarred’s close friend and a former counselor. He was just that guy, the one who was so easy to talk to and in all the years I knew him, I never saw him upset.”
Jarred moved on from Camp Simcha and eventually made his first visit to Israel with Chai Lifeline’s Wish at the Wall program. After finishing college, he began establishing himself as a professional photographer and tried to distance himself from his cancer whenever he could. But even as Jarred attempted to focus on his future, he still stayed in close contact with his Chai Lifeline buddies.
“He flew in for my wedding and for several others, always on his own dime,” said Manies. “We were real friends and could talk to each other about anything.”
That strong relationship between Jarred and his Chai Lifeline friends was something unique, observed Ellen Weiss, director of programs and services for Chai Lifeline’s Southeast region.
“It is really a testament to the impact that Chai Lifeline and Camp Simcha have on their client’s lives and the relationships that are built with children and their families,” said Weiss.
Over the past several years Jarred suffered several relapses, finally succumbing to cancer on Erev Rosh Chodesh Av.
Manies, who flew down to Florida to attend the funeral along with another of Jarred’s counselors, said that the timing of Jarred’s death was particularly significant.
“As soon as I heard the news, the first thing that came to my mind was that we were just starting the Nine Days and here was a man who personified ahavas chinam,” said Manies. “He got along with everybody and everybody was his friend. That was just Jarred.”
Even as Chai Lifeline mourns Jarred’s untimely passing, it celebrates his life. His friends at Chai Lifeline and Camp Simcha were of all ages and came from all different religious backgrounds, and much as he was showered with love and affection as part of the Chai Lifeline family, he paid that forward by welcoming others with that same heartfelt embrace. In Jarred’s life, he was an ambassador for the achdus, ahavas chinam and simchas hachaim that are the very foundation of Chai Lifeline, and now with his passing, he will be remembered for the sterling qualities that he embodied despite the difficulties that he faced.
As we count down to the end of the Nine Days and prepare for Tisha B’Av, our thoughts of Jarred will serve a poignant reminder of the importance of treating every person with love, respect and warmth, and we hope to honor this unforgettable individual by following in his footsteps.
May his memory be a blessing to us all.