My sister, Adeena Kempe-Halberstam, and Rachel Lee, Daniella’s sister, have been best friends for the past fourteen years. Because our families were close, our mothers scheduled a time to meet up and have dinner at Los Angeles’s local pizza shop, Pizza World. This was the first time I met Daniella Lee-Casper. I was only thirteen years old and just started to think about the next big chapter in my life, high school. Without any hesitation and with a bright smile, Daniella was happy to inform me on the ins and outs of a high school student at YULA whether it was the latest fashion on how to wear your uniform to which teachers were the most interesting to learn from. Aside from high school matters, we also talked about life in general, our big sisters being best friends, and cracked a few jokes as well.
Daniella also brought a friend along with her to Pizza World who just moved into our town and just so happened to enroll in YULA too. Daniella took it upon herself to introduce her to this new environment so she would feel as comfortable as anyone else who lived in LA would. Pizza World, one of L.A.’s #1 Kosher pizza shops, is definitely a hot spot for the LA Jewish community. We slowly drifted away from our mothers and sat at a separate booth so us “girls” could all get to know each other. We all had a great time laughing and talking about life. Daniella had such a warm personality that no one would ever feel isolated around her. The calming angelic pitch in her voice sounded as though everything in anyone’s life was going to be okay. I felt as if I can talk to her about anything that was on my mind and she would figure out a way to lessen my worries. Towards the end of the meal, the one thing that resonated within me at such a young age was how mature and astonishing Daniella truly was.
I finally made my way to YULA Girls High School. I reunited with Daniella and saw the same Pizza World smile every morning at davening making sure I was comfortable and included. Daniella graduated from YULA, went on to seminary, got married to Noam Casper, moved to the same block as me, and had a beautiful baby boy, Gavriel. Although Daniella and I were not so close, I saw Daniella often walking her Gavriel up and down the block. Again, Daniella would always stop and greet me with her naturally glowing demeanor. I learned a lot from Daniella over the course I have known her. She taught me that it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re from, or what you look like, always greet everyone with a smile, and never be quick to judge anyone. Make sure to include everyone, and genuinely care about the people around you. I will continue to live in her memory by incorporating her lifestyle into mine as well. Daniella, you will never be forgotten.