Tuesday, Jun 11, 2024

Ayala Shulman a”h

The aveilus of the Nine Days came early to Chicago this year with the tragic passing of Ayala Shulman a”h at the age of 18. Ayala had just graduated from Bais Yaakov High School in Chicago and was preparing to go to seminary in Eretz Yisroel in Elul. But it was not to be. An accident on Wednesday night, July 3, on the road near the Mesorah Bungalow Colony at Camp Agudah Midwest in South Haven, Michigan, left her in critical condition. For two days, she hovered between life and death as the city of Chicago and people around the world davened for a miracle that never came. On Erev Shabbos afternoon, 27 Tammuz, her neshamah returned to its Maker.

Ayala was born 18 years ago to Reb Ahron and Mrs. Reva (Gittelman) Shulman of Chicago. At a very young age, she already exhibited character and spunk. She had the interest and ability to debate anyone about anything. She was always at the center of the action while living in the middle of one of the busiest blocks in Chicago’s Peterson Park neighborhood.


She had a spark and a joie de vivre that made her fun to be around. Her spontaneous energy made people want to be close to her. Every girl felt that she was her friend. Indeed, when asked who her friends were, she would reply, “Everyone.”


“She had an uncanny smile,” declared her father in hishesped. “She had a zest for life. She had the ability and desire to befriend anyone and everyone.”


Ayala had a heart of gold. She would do anything for anyone. It seemed as though the word “no” did not exist in her vocabulary. She loved each of her siblings and had a specific way to show it to each one. This one would get her hair braided. That one would get help with homework.


She had an exceptional love for little children, especially her nieces and nephews. She would not hesitate to visit them, care for them, and babysit for them. She did not wait to be asked. Even during her senior year finals, just weeks ago, she went to babysit for her nieces and nephews while studying.


“I’m studying anyway,” she told her brother, father of those children, “so I might as well do it here so you can get a break!”


A sister-in-law once asked if she would be available on a certain day to accompany her to the pediatrician’s office. Ayala gladly agreed. A few days later, she was invited to her married sister’s home in Cleveland. The time of her scheduled flight coincided with the time she had agreed to help her sister-in-law. The latter said, “Don’t worry. It’s no problem. You haven’t been to Cleveland for so long. Just go ahead. I’ll manage.”


But Ayala refused. She changed her ticket so that she could accommodate her sister-in-law. That was classic Ayala.


When she headed a Shabbaton at Bais Yaakov of Chicago, her schoolmates happily volunteered for jobs that might have otherwise been considered tedious. Ayala knew how to make them fun.


Ayala was a selfless person. Giving was her essence and her joy. When she saw a need, she was the first to run and help.


Ayala was always willing to give of herself for others. Every week, after the Shabbos seudah and before getting together with friends, she would visit a certain old lady in the neighborhood who needed chizuk.


Rav Binyomin Shulman, Ayala’s uncle, said, “The last time I was in Chicago, she was packing a suitcase to go to Israel. She was working hard to make everything fit inside, all of it as a chessed for someone else.”


Tuesday, July 2, was opening day at Camp Agudah Midwest. One of the staff families was apprehensive about the arrangements for their disabled child while they’d be working at camp. Someone suggested that they ask Ayala if she would be willing to help. Ayala was invited to meet the child on that first night of camp. The mother explained all the myriad steps involved. Ayala assured the mother that she would happily take care of anything that would be necessary. She said it with such confidence and happiness that the mother could feel her stress melting away.


The next afternoon, just hours before what turned out to be that fatal accident, the mother called Mrs. Shulman to report,: “Since this child was born, I have not felt nechamah like I did the moment your daughter accepted the responsibility with such love.”


Ayala’s great heart came from her parents and grandparents. Reb Ari and Reva are among Chicago’s great baalei chessed. They are noted as masters of acts of kindness for the klal and the individual in a city that has many such people. Whether in public, where Reb Ari has been active since the founding of Camp Agudah Midwest in 1987, and as a former president of Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov, or numerous more private acts of chessed, the Shulmans stand out as being among the greatest.


Their greatness is seen not only in their deeds, but in their words as well. Ari always has a caring word or a friendly jab for those who can handle it. But it is always measured in a way to provide chizuk and good feeling where it is needed most. Ayala, too, inherited this knack of knowing the right thing to say to prop up someone who needs emotional support.


She had a strong spiritual side as well. She was above all the modern-day gashmiyus matters that we all battle daily. When Ayala made a kabbolah, she really stuck to it. A few weeks ago, she and some family members accepted upon themselves to be more stringent with the laws of shemiras halashon. She was the one who reminded everyone, when necessary, about their kabbolah.


The last shopping trip she took was to buy more tzniusdike clothing. She was not satisfied with what she had, and she constantly wished to upgrade her standards as a growing bas Yisroel.


She treasured Shabbos and she would teach her siblings how to prepare for that special day. When asked why she always did her hair for Shabbos, her reply was, “It’s for the Shabbos.”


Then came the accident. In the final two days of her life, while lying unconscious in a hospital, she continued to inspire others, directly and indirectly. Upon arrival in the emergency room, the doctors held out no hope for Ayala to survive more than two hours. She shocked them all by how long her heart held out for. To those who knew her, it was no surprise, for they knew that Ayala had a heart of gold. It was strengthened by all the chessed she did for others.


Tefillah and Tehillim groups instantly began sprouting up in Chicago and around the world. Ayala’s friends in camps across the country launched “Amein” initiatives, as that was a program that Ayala had herself promoted in Bais Yaakov of Chicago.


She was routinely described as “a doer, who never said ‘no’ to anything!” But for two days, she told the Malach Hamovess, “No!” She gave her family time to prepare. She created the opportunity for an untold number of tefillos and zechuyos in her merit.


Those two days in the hospital provided the family an unparalleled opportunity for kiddush Sheim Shomayim.


“We said vidui with her twice,” said her grandfather, noted educator Reb Avi Shulman. “The entire family sat around her bed singing Ani Maamin. The doctors stood in awe. They had never seen anything like it.”


Ayala had been preparing to go to Israel. Her suitcases were packed many weeks before she was due to travel. Now she goes in a different way, but with great packages to accompany her.


One could hear the great spirit from which Ayala came at the levaya in Chicago. Her father, Reb Ahron, said, “We won’t be getting calls from seminary. We won’t walk her down to the chupah. But this is the gezeirah from Shomayim and we are mekabel it completely!”


Rav Avrohom Greenfeld, former menahel at Bais Shraga in Monsey and at Yeshiva Torah Temimah, said, “I heard Reb Ahron speak for 20 minutes. His wholehearted and sincere acceptance of the gezeirah can be accurately described as ‘Vayidom Aharon.’”


Reb Ahron and Reva also had from whom to learn the proper Torah perspective. Reb Ari is a son of Reb Avi Shulman, noted speaker and writer, and one noted for a clear perspective and seichel hayoshor. Mrs. Shulman’s mother, Mrs. Esther Langer of Queens, is a woman who has borne much suffering with dignity, and through it all has maintained her regal bearing and steadfast emunah in Hashem.


After the late Friday petirah, there were levayos held on Motzoei Shabbos in South Haven, early Sunday morning in Chicago, and Sunday evening in Newark Airport before the aron was flown to Eretz Yisroel for kevurah in Beit Shemesh.


Ayala is survived by her parents, Reb Ari and Reva Shulman; her siblings, Reb Binyomin Shulman, Mrs. Malka Hollander of Chicago, Mrs. Zehava Sheinbaum of Cleveland, Elimelech, Ezriel, Buna, Shoshana, Yisroel, and Etty; her grandparents, Rabbi and Mrs. Avi Shulman of Monsey and Mrs. Esther Langer of Kew Garden Hills; and countless friends in Chicago and around the world.


Yehi zichroh boruch.


In Memory of Ayala Shulman a”h

Tisha B’Av here in Chicago came early

A life snatched so suddenly, too prematurely

Tous, so it seems…for we don’t understand

The ways of Hashem and His Own Master Plan

Ayala, the girl who would always say, “Yes”

Who’d actually offer before the request.

Depicted by all as a giver, a do-er

Everyone’s pal – friend to all those who knew her.

Eager for sem next month – so much, in fact,

Her suitcases now, in July, were all packed

Our tears do not stop as we think of Ayala

Who’ll now learn Up There, in Yeshiva Shel Maalah

Her suitcases packed with the mitzvos she’s done

Overweight – from chessed for everyone

And audible Ameins, and loud brachos blessed

Since she brought “Amein” to BYHS.

And here in this world, we’re still stunned…as we grieve

While family members tell us, “We believe!

We won’t be the same; we will miss her a lot

But the Aibishter wants this, we question Him not.

We accept His gezeirah. We don’t know His ways…”

May the geulah shleimah come soon… in our days.  

By a friend



My Take on the News

  Hostility in the Court This week’s top story, without a doubt, was the Supreme Court hearing this Sunday that dealt with the draft of

Read More »


Subscribe to stay updated