NEW YORK CITY — Hundreds of mourners gathered in Park Slope early Friday morning to mourn a man who was killed during Hurricane Sandy by a falling tree while helping a friend walk her dog.
Distraught family and friends packed into the Congregation Beth Elohim synagogue to remember Jacob Vogelman, 23, a Brooklyn College design student who was killed alongside friend Jessie Streich-Kest, 24, while helping his childhood pal walk her dog.
"It's just the most unfair thing," said Paul Finkelstein, 48, a family friend. "He was a young man who just went out to walk a dog with his friend. You always say it can't happen to you, but what's the chances of this happening? It's just unexplainable."
Brittany Ianno, 22, of Sheepshead Bay, who went to Leon M. Goldstein High School in Manhattan Beach with Vogelman, called the accident "just incredible."
"He was really nice. He was very sweet," Ianno said. "It's just unfortunate what happened."
Family members on hand stuggled with the loss of a young man they said always looked out for others in the family.
"Whenever stuff like this happens people always say 'you know, that person was one of a kind,' but I think Jake really was," said Jonathan Vogelman, 24, Jake's cousin. "He really cared about the loved ones in his life, from his cousins to his friends to his family, and everything he did was just about going out of his way to make life easier for everyone else."
Others expressed grief for Vogelman's parents, Brooklyn Housing Court Judge Marcia Sikowitz and Larry Vogelman. Sikowitz is a housing court judge, friends said, and dozens of New York State court officers came out to show support.
"It's a horrible thing for a parent to lose a child," said Bennett Wine, 57, a family friend from upstate New York. "Injustice is the only word I can come up with for what happened."
Inside the packed synagogue, those court officers surrounded the casket, which was cloaked in a dark blue fabric emblazoned with a Star of David, and saluted Vogelman, as the cantor's somber, melodic songs reverberated throughout the airy space.
Sikowitz huddled with Vogelman's twin brothers, Jeremiah and Noah Vogelman, as she hugged the countless people who came to pay their respects.
The service included long accounts of Vogelman's life by friends and family, all of whom said that Vogelman would help anyone, no excuses or questions asked. They spoke of his love of building and inventing things, his work behind the scenes in theater, his love of driving, his love of talking and his dedication to friends and family.
Vogelman's childhood creative theatrics teacher, Kathryn Dickinson, said Vogelman was "a peacemaker" who said "never a bad word about people." Dickinson called him "contemplative, wanting to figure things out, to make the mysterious his reality."
"Jacob was born a man," said Dickinson, who worked with Vogelman as he helped her with her own production company, White Bird, and knew him since he was 2 years old.
Rabbi Andy Bachman also praised Vogelman's generous spirit.
"A person like Jake is our tree of life," Bachman said, noting that he smiled at everyone he met. "There was a fearlessness and a generosity in Jake's love."
Bachman then spoke about the last moments of Vogelman's life, which Bachman said were spent showing kindness to an animal.
"One thing we know is, there was no doubt in Jake's mind that the moment he lost his life he was doing the right thing," Bachman said. "He was loving and living fully."