Eighteen-year-old Daniel Perelman had just finished his first year at Northwestern University, studying physics and preparing to pursue a career as an orthopedic surgeon. He was a proud Jew and, together with his family, a member of Chabad of Waukesha. Daniel was also a student pilot, and last Thursday, while on a solo flight, his Cessna 152 light aircraft suffered an engine failure. The airplane crashed, and Daniel passed away in the hospital two days later.
The tragedy devastated the tight-knit community and Daniel’s friends and classmates, who knew him as a person full of energy and curiosity and a gentle soul. “Daniel was kind and giving,” said Rabbi Levi Brook, who directs Chabad of Waukesha together with his wife Fraidy. “He greeted everyone with a smile.”
After consulting with his parents, Chabad set up a website where people can pledge to perform a mitzvah in Daniel’s honor. Within just a day, seven hundred people have already done so. “The tragedy is overwhelming, but in the Jewish tradition we don’t face tragedy passively,” said Rabbi Brook. “A mitzvah provides a way to do something positive for him, and memorialize his life by adopting a positive trait or behavior.”
At Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, Daniel joined Chabad on Campus’ shabbat meals each week. “He radiated warmth, he invited friends to join every week, and made sure everyone felt included,” said Rabbi Mendy Weg of Northwestern Chabad, “he owned his academics, his Judaism, and gave his all to everything he did.” Even though he was at Northwestern for less than a year, many students have shared uplifting stories with him, and he leaves behind many friends.
Daniel leaves behind his loving parents, sister, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.