Hilton native among 5 Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza

Israeli soldier killed over weekend was from Hilton

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One of the five Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza Saturday was born and raised in Hilton and converted five years ago at Temple Beth El.

We learned about the death of Jonathan W. Dean Jr. late Sunday night.

Staff Sergeant Dean and four other soldiers in the Israeli Defense Force were killed in Gaza when the building they were in exploded.

On Monday, we spoke to and messaged with people who knew him well.

One friend started an online fundraiser account.

“Jonathan truly had a heart of gold and was one of the most loving people I have been blessed to have met,” wrote Samuel Tregea, a classmate of Dean’s at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Brockport. “He not only was an amazing friend, but he was also an amazing son and brother.”

Tregea’s GoFundMe for Dean has raised $2,250 of the $15,000 goal.

Dean converted to Judaism in 2018, and I spoke to his rabbi at Temple Beth El in Brighton.

“I think the community is shocked by this news,” Rabbi Leonardo Bitran said. “I thought it was not true. I couldn’t believe that such a young man full of life, interested in Israel, good-hearted, good-natured, who wanted to help others in Israel and in his way back here was killed.”

Rabbi Bitran said Dean moved to Israel by 2019 and he was emailing Rabbi Bitran for help in becoming a citizen and joining the army.

Brean: “What do you think prompted him to join the IDF?”
Rabbi Leonardo Bitran, Temple Beth El: “I think it was a series of approximations to Judaism. He became enamored with the tradition. And I think he felt to live Judaism fully he needed to move to Israel. So I think he first went with birthright, 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.'”

I spoke to Dean’s high school principal, and he said the family has asked for privacy this week.

Rabbi Bitran read an email from Dean from October, prior to the Hamas terror attack on the 7th.
Dean wrote about coming back to get his degree in American Sign Language at RIT and ended the email saying he would be back home in January.