By all accounts, Elan Ganeles was a stellar young man. Kind. Respectful. Devoted to family and friends.
He loved macaroni-and-cheese and playing the saxophone, according to a profile on Ganeles in the annual “Terrific Teens” issue of West Hartford Magazine in October 2014. Elan was also a member of the National Honor Society and a National Commended Merit Scholar.
He also loved the State of Israel. He loved it enough that he served in the Israel Defense Forces from July 2016 to August 2018.
Ganeles’s life came to an abrupt and tragic end on the evening of Feb. 27, when the 26-year-old was shot by a Palestinian terrorist while driving near the town of Jericho in the Jordan Valley, near the Beit Ha’arava Junction. Ganeles, who lived with a few friends in Manhattan, had gone to Israel to celebrate a friend’s wedding.
A native of West Hartford, Conn., he and his brothers, Gabriel and Simon, grew up attending the Young Israel of West Hartford. Their parents, Carolyn and Andrew Ganeles, remain members of the synagogue, which announced Elan’s murder with “devastated and broken hearts.”
Ganeles attended the Hebrew Academy in West Hartford and was a 2104 graduate of the Hebrew High School of New England, now part of the New England Jewish Academy. The latter canceled its scheduled March 1 fundraising dinner. “We could not contemplate a festive event at this time of great personal and communal sorrow,” it stated.
While a student at Columbia University, Ganeles worked as a geospatial analyst at the university’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network.
“People are all shook up; they are very hurt,” said Rabbi Yosef Gopin, director of the Chabad House of Greater Hartford, who has lived in the area for more than 40 years. “I remember Elan as a kid when he came to our [Gan Israel] summer camp. He was such a good, good kid. And his family? There are no nicer people than his family.”
Mayor of West Hartford Shari Cantor told JNS that the sudden death is affecting the larger community.
“This is a small-knit community, and we are all mourning the loss of Elan and supporting his family, the Hebrew High School of New England and the Young Israel communities,” she said. “He was beloved and respected. He added music, humor and intellect. May his memory be for a blessing.”
David Waren, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, said in a statement that yet another innocent civilian was targeted by those who see violence as a legitimate solution to an ongoing political conflict.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the Ganeles family and affirm our solidarity with the people of Israel at this time of escalating violence,” he stated. “May Elan’s memory be a blessing for his family and our entire community.”
‘Support and love and encouragement’
This is not the first time a terror attack has struck close to home for West Hartford Jews. Ganeles’s murder took place nearly 27 years to the day after Matthew Eisenfeld, who was also from the Connecticut town, and his girlfriend, Sara Duker, were killed when the bus they were riding exploded in Jerusalem on Feb. 25, 1996.
“I remember when that happened,” Gopin told JNS. “There was a big funeral, and the whole community came together. And I am sure that the community will pour out support and love and encouragement for the Ganeles family.”
The funeral will be held on Wednesday, March 1, in Ra’anana, Israel, at 1 p.m. local time (6 a.m. East Coast time) and will be livestreamed.
The family plans to return to West Hartford on Thursday and will observe shiva. A memorial fund is being established by the Young Israel of West Hartford to help the family.