Every time she lights Shabbat candles, she relives the tragedy

When Sarah and Leah helped their mother prepare for Shabbat, they had no idea it would be one of their last happy moments together.

Vaad HaRabbanim ,

Sarah in happier days
Sarah in happier days
צילום: Vaad HaRabbanim

When Sarah and Leah Rothner helped their mother cook for Shabbat two weeks ago, they had no way of foreseeing that it would be one of their precious last few happy moments with her. Now, two weeks after her tragic death, they wish that they could turn back the clock.

But time waits for no one.

Levana had taken pains to bring Shabbat in on time. She lit the candles and then headed over to the bookshelf to find a siddur from which to sing the traditional Friday night prayers. But before she reached the shelf, she suddenly collapsed.

“I quickly gathered all the children out of the house and screamed to our neighbors to call Hatzolah,” writes Sarah, the oldest of the seven children.

Paramedics rushed to the scene but when they arrived, they immediately realized that this was a complex family situation: There was so much clutter all over the floor that they struggled to clear enough space to administer CPR. In the end, the paramedics had no choice but to drag Levana outside the apartment where they began attempts to resuscitate her.

Levana’s children looked on as they tried to save their mother's life. But unfortunately, she didn’t make it.

Sarah, only 17, looks back on the traumatic memory: “After a few terrifying minutes, they turned to me and asked: 'Where is your father? She is not responding to our resuscitation attempts.'”

Sarah's heart sank. She didn’t have an answer for them.

She hadn’t seen her father for over a year.

Over the following days, various details about Levana's husband came to light. Yaakov Rothner has difficulty functioning and would often disappear from home for extended periods of time. He was an unstable figure who was barely present in his children’s lives and Levana was left with no choice but to attempt to run the house and take care of the seven children single-handedly. Understandably, she struggled. Pictures of the apartment taken by the police soon after her death depict utter chaos, with a thick layer of black mold caked on the walls and dirty laundry strewn across the floor of every room.

All the same, Levana Rothner was a devoted mother who did her best by her children, and now that she is gone, Sarah fears that she and her siblings are on the verge of falling apart:

“My mother Levana Rothner was only 48 when she died. She left us all alone in the world, hungry for her love, searching for comfort in a world gone dark. I am only seventeen. Old enough to understand the danger of our situation, of how very alone and vulnerable we are. Too young to take financial responsibility for the family. I turn to you and beg. If you see the pictures of our house you will understand that we’ve been through enough in life. But now, we are on the verge of falling apart completely. Please help us.”

The Rothner children are in desperate need of support and stability. Donations are being urgently collected here to help them rebuild their lives.