Boise & Garden City

School library will honor Boise boy who drowned; police remain mum

Ilai Mizrachi-Gabittas
Ilai Mizrachi-Gabittas

The parents of a Boise boy who drowned at a house pool about two weeks ago are raising money for a children’s library at the Chabad Jewish Community Center of Idaho.

Ilai Mizrachi-Gabbitas, who would have turned 6 on Saturday, died in an accidental drowning Aug. 9 at a Boise home. He was the son of Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas and Chuck Gabbitas.

“They’re trying to celebrate and perpetuate his memory,” said Rabbi Mendel Lifshitz, director of the community center. “They just wanted to transform this into something positive.”

The circumstances of Ilai’s death have not been made public. The police have declined to release specifics.

“Due to the tragic nature of this event for everyone involved and the ongoing investigation we are not able to provide any additional information at this time,” a department spokesman said in an email after the drowning. BPD did not respond to a request for more information Monday.

Over the past decade, 61 Idaho children have died from accidental drowning, including six in 2015, according to the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. That data is for all children 17 and younger who died from 2006 to 2015.

Twenty-six children died in rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Another 18 died in ponds, canals and ditches, state health data show. There were nine bathtub and hot tub deaths, and five pool deaths. The locations of three were not specified.

‘MIRACLE BABY’

Ilai was one of 30 children who studied Hebrew at the Chabad Jewish Center on State Street, near Veterans Memorial Parkway. He loved books, hence the idea for the children’s library in his memory.

“He was a really, really enthusiastic student,” Lifshitz said. “He would come almost always first. He just loved coming to school. He’d give a huge hug to Esther [his teacher] every time he came. He was just a happy boy. He was a peaceful, joyous child.”

An online fundraiser seeks $30,000 for the library. More than $17,700 had been donated as of Monday evening, just two days into the fundraiser.

The couple shared memories of Ilai — their “miracle baby” — on the fundraising website.

“A result of an IVF procedure in which we had potentially 32 babies,” they wrote. “Ilai was our last chance along with three other embryos. He was in the freezer for four months, survived the delicate thawing-out process and eventually was the only one who made it to be our baby.”

They chose the Hebrew name Ilai because it was easy to pronounce. They remember him as tough, wise, loving and warm; he loved doing typical kid things, like riding bikes and playing basketball and soccer.

“But he also had a deeper dimension to him: he loved being a Jew and he loved learning about Jewish values and traditions and talked about it often, teaching it to us and anyone that would listen. He was our prized student. But he was also our teacher,” the couple wrote.

Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas is a baker. She opened Janjou Patisserie in Boise’s North End in 2013.

Friends of the family have posted words of support to the grieving parents on unfolded pastry boxes outside the bakery, which has been closed for much of the month. The couple, Lifshitz said, has been touched and comforted by the concern from the entire community, including Mayor David Bieter.

“They really have some fiercely loyal customers who are really more like family,” he said. “It’s been a remarkable outpouring of support.”

The bakery will reopen at 7 a.m. Tuesday, closing at 2 p.m. daily until further notice, according to a message posted on the bakery’s Facebook page.

“Thank you to all of our customers, vendors and friends for the immense support and love during these difficult times. We are trying hard to get on with our lives, without our angel Ilai and open the patisserie for business,” the Facebook post says.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

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