The bodies of seven siblings who died in a house fire are headed to Israel for burial, a day after their sobbing father told mourners in his ultra-Orthodox Jewish community how much joy they had brought him. "They were so pure," Gabriel Sassoon said yesterday of his children during a eulogy. "My wife, she came out fighting." Flames engulfed the family's home in Brooklyn early Saturday, likely after a hot plate left on a kitchen counter set off the fire that trapped the children and badly injured their mother and another sibling, investigators say. The tragedy had some neighborhood Jews reconsidering the practice of keeping hot plates on for the Sabbath, a common modern method of obeying tradition prohibiting use of fire on the holy day.
"My children were unbelievable. They were the best," Sassoon said at their funerals, calling them "angels." Authorities identified the victims as girls Eliane, 16; Rivkah, 11; and Sara, 6; and boys David, 12; Yeshua, 10; Moshe, 8; and Yaakob, 5. At the time of the fire, Sassoon—a religious education instructor—was in Manhattan at a Shabbaton, an educational retreat. After the funeral, SUVs took the bodies of the children, accompanied by their father, to John F. Kennedy International Airport for a flight to Israel, where they had lived until around a year and a half ago. Sassoon's wife and surviving 14-year-old daughter are still in critical condition on respirators. (Read more Brooklyn stories.)