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Honoring the memory of Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan, a member of the Hillel class of 2008 was tragically shot to death last Friday. He was 17 years old, a child. He endeared himself to his teachers and friends.

Written by Steve Freedman, Head of School, Hillel Day School, as a tribute to Jonathan Hoffman.

Jonathan Hoffman should have been getting ready for his high school graduation and looking forward to the next stage in his young life.  Jonathan, a member of the Hillel class of 2008 was tragically shot to death last Friday.  He was 17 years old, a child. There are no guarantees. The Book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) teaches us that life is unpredictable and can end in an instant.  The Book of Job teaches us not to be arrogant and assume we can understand or make sense of God’s sometime incomprehensible world.  And the modern theologian Rabbi Harold Kushner helps us to wrestle with the fact that bad things happen to good people, and that God’s role is to teach us that we are not alone in the world.  God has love for us and compassion for us in our suffering.  In fact, when we suffer, God suffers. My purpose in writing this blog is to honor, in some small way, the memory of Jonathan.  At Hillel, we remember Jonathan as a friendly middle schooler who liked to have fun.  He had a sense of humor that endeared him to his teachers and friends.  Like many middle school students, when he put his mind to it, he could be a good writer and a deep thinker. He was a devoted friend, and his friends loved him.  He was a sweet son and a fun older brother. And his family loved him. 

Read the entire blog post here. https://www.hillelday.org/head_of_school_blog

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

R Gibson May 24, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Grandmas don’t kill their grandson’s unless something is very very wrong. As Channel 4 reported this morning Jonathon Hoffman was a friend of Tucker Cipriano and Mitchell Young, the boy who savagely killed is father, and seriously wounded his mother and brother. They all attended the same alternative school in Farmingont Hills. According to the Detroit News, there were several instances with the police, as recently as late March. The Police found drug paraphernalia in the apartment, much more than just “experimenting” as his father suggests. He tested positive for the K2 or “Spice”, the supplement that has been linked to the boys in the Cipriano murders. I think there is a lot more going on here with the parents, the grandparents, the boy, and the police then we know. Personally, I wish you would use your column and voice to make this a teachable moment. Use your position to discuss the devastation divorce has on children. Educate parents on the dangers of these so called legal herbal substances. Encourage parents to be parents and find out what your kids are doing. What has occurred is a tragedy. I am not defending the grandmother, but what must she have felt, how much fear could she have been in, to pick up a firearm and shoot her own grandson 8 times. She was scared; she was so scared that she wanted to make sure that he never got up again. There are 2 sides to every story. Something is horribly wrong here.
dawn peggie May 24, 2012 at 05:37 PM
If she was this concerned about her well being then pick up the phone and call the parents. He also had other family members in the area that would of took him. I dont believe taking his live was the answer.
Mabelle May 24, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Elderly grandparents are not the people with whom to leave your troubled child. I just can't get out of my head that if the parents were with him this never would have happened.
Ronald Wolf May 24, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Very good point but I would not be surprised if the grandmother volunteered to take him. I am surprised that someone did not contact the grandmother about the many services offerred through the Jewish community in West Bloomfield, and diappointed that the police were not more involved considering the situation of an elderly grandmother with a troubled teen. They certainly could haved steered her to the right agency, or a least given her a card with an officer's or detective's number to call. And where was his school counselor? Probably too busy helping a kid without problems. I will not rush to judgement on this one but there is plenty of blame to go around in a community blessed with so many resources and safety nets. My conclusion is that we need to recognize that "this cannot happen here" is now a delusion. No community is immune.
R Gibson May 25, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Dawn, she might have we don't know. Which is exactly my point. I am not saying what she did is right. But everyone seems to be rushing to judgement about the grandmother. The father says the son was "experimenting" with drugs. The kid was caught by the police with pot in the car and a pot shredder. In addition, according to the Detroit News, the police found a scale in the condo. You need a scale for one reason and one reason only, weighing. Weighing means distribution.
Alan Stamm May 25, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Indeed, Sandra Layne reportedly did offer hospitality so her grandson could finish school locally while estranged parents Michael and Jennifer coped with his 15-year-old sister Jessica's tretment in Phoenix for a noncancerous brain tumor. So yes, what sounds like an over-the-top soap opera plot is a stark reminder of real life in Anytown, USA. Rushing to judge based on thin wisps of information is inappropriate, as you and R. Gibson say. In that same spirit, wild speculation that "his school counselor probably [was] too busy helping a kid without problems" is equally unwarranted, I respectfully suggest. Steve Freedman aptly reminds us above "not to be arrogant and assume we can understand or make sense of God’s sometime incomprehensible world." Amen. ...
Alan Stamm May 25, 2012 at 04:13 PM
"Michael Hoffman, Jonathan’s father, said the reason his son was living with the Laynes has been publicly misconstrued. The original plan was for both Jonathan and Jessie to move to Arizona with their parents. Almost as soon as they arrived, Jessie was diagnosed with a nonmalignant brain tumor, which required a month-long hospital stay, three surgeries and many rehabilitation sessions. Her recovery was consuming most of Michael and Jennifer’s time, and Jonathan was lonely for his friends back home. "When Layne invited Jonathan to live with her while he completed his senior year, the Hoffmans agreed." -- The Detroit Jewish News, May 24 [ http://bit.ly/KoY0cv ]
J. Harris April 02, 2013 at 03:37 PM
R. Gibson seems to think that Jonathon had it comming, and that his grandmother was justified in massacring him. No one deserves to die for trying drugs or being difficult. This boy was slaughtered by his own grandmother--the one he trusted to love and protect him. A woman that (by her own admission) he was never any threat to. Massacred by several gun shots, blind-sided with absolutely no struggle. And then while he pleaded for his own life on the phone to a 911 dispatcher, and she walks up to him and shoots him again. There was no "rush to judgement" in this murder conviction by this jury, who provided excellent service, one year after the murder. I have been grieving for this boy like you cannot imagine; but I am so glad our justice system worked well this time.
Bloomfield1876 April 03, 2013 at 10:12 AM
My thoughts on this sad story do agree with Gibson. The parents justify their absence from Jonathan's life with their need to attend to the physical illness of their daughter. But what about the mental health issues with their son? This is a reminder that often we assume any physical illness "trumps" the significance of a mental health needs.....seems to me the parents made a compromised choice about their priorities in life.

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