Family of Hilton man who served in Israeli Defense Force killed in Gaza says he was ‘all about protecting’

Family of local IDF soldier speaks

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HILTON, N.Y. – The family of Jonathan Dean Jr. released a statement today on Dean’s death in Gaza last week.

Dean was a “lone soldier” in the Israeli Defense Force and was among six soldiers killed in a house explosion in Gaza on Dec. 8th.

In Israel, a lone soldier is usually an immigrant to the country or a volunteer from abroad.

“We appreciate the respect (for our privacy) and request that it continues as we grieve along with other area families who have lost loved ones. We know that as a result of Jonathan’s actions, many civilians are alive today because he is not,” his family wrote in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Dean grew up in Hilton and attended Cornerstone Christian Academy, a small Christian school in Brockport. Dean’s family says a scholarship will be set up at the school and in Israel.

In the statement, the family writes: “Jonathan was all about protecting – anyone, anywhere. He knew four languages, loved everyone, and had a special place in his heart for the elderly.”

Dean converted to Judaism in 2019 at Temple Beth El in Brighton. He then moved to Israel and enlisted in the IDF.

A story in the Times of Israel says Dean converted to Judaism after studying the Holocaust in college.

“And I think he felt to live Judaism fully he needed to move to Israel,” said Temple Beth El Rabbi Leonardo Bitran in an interview with News10NBC last week. “So I think he first went with birth-right, and then he’s communicating with me and saying, ‘Rabbi, I think I’m interested in staying. I would like to become a citizen and serve in the Army.'”

Dean’s family statement continued to read:

“He intended to integrate his Emergency and Disaster Management Master’s Degree that he had acquired at the University of Tel Aviv with one of the languages he knew (ASL) and he had intended to get his medical interpreting certification at [Rochester Institute of Technology] to work in hospitals here, in Israel, or abroad if necessary.

His services were an integration of his Christian upbringing and his Jewish conversion, and there will be a scholarship fund setup in his memory, not only in Israel, but as well at Cornerstone Christian Academy.”

The family ended the statement by writing, “We love you, Jonathan.”