Esther Benzohar Ohayon, 57, of Jacksonville, Florida
was killed when she was hit by a car on Friday while crossing a street to attend a Yom Kippur
service at a local synagogue.
The woman's daughter Orly (17), who was also hit by the car, sustained severe injuries in the accident and is being treated at University of Florida Health hospital in Jacksonville.
Ohayon's relatives said she was planning to return to Israel once her daughter graduated. According to authorities in Jacksonville, the two were hit by a Toyota Camry traveling southbound.
Michael Fortunato, of Jacksonville, was listed as the driver of the Camry, according to Florida Highway Patrol documents.
Fortunato was detained at the scene. FHP officials are still investigating to determine whether he ran a red light or was under the influence of alcohol.
Rabbi Yaakov Fisch, of Etz Chaim Synagogue, where Ohayon and her daughter were headed at the time of the accident, said she was "a very refined and kind-hearted woman." He said her family plans to fly her body to Israel
to be buried next to her husband.
Fisch said Orly Ohayon is expected to recover after undergoing surgery. He said Esther Ohayon was a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch Synagogue on Haley Road.
Esther's nephew said: "We received the news on Yom Kippur. My uncle knocked on the door, and we were surprised because people usually stay at home on Yom Kippur. He said there had been an accident in Jacksonville and that Esther was killed."
Esther has a twin sister in Dimona and four children. Her husband passed away more than a decade ago.
Rabbi Joshua Lief, of the Congregation Ahavath Chesed Synagogue, said he knows Ohayon and her daughter and that the entire Jewish
community is feeling the accident’s impact.
“The reality is that we here in Jacksonville are a very small and close-knit Jewish community, and we are all devastated by this terrible loss,” he said.
Esther Ohayon taught preschool at the Jacksonville Jewish Center. Jon Mitzmacher, head of the Jacksonville Jewish Center’s Galinsky Academy, said “Miss Esther,” as she was known at the preschool, was beloved.
“Never was a teacher more kind and loving than Esther Ohayon,” Mitzmacher said. “Our hearts break for her family and friends in our schools, in our synagogue, the Jacksonville Jewish Center, and for her family and friends at Etz Chaim.”
Mitzmacher said he taught Orly Ohayan and she is “as sweet and sincere as the day is long.”
“All we can do now,” he said, “is pray for Orly’s recovery and pledge our part to see Esther be a memory everlasting.”
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop