May Naim with her grandfather, soccer coach Shlomo Scharf (Photo/JTA)
May Naim with her grandfather, soccer coach Shlomo Scharf (Photo/JTA)

Cousin of staffer at San Jose’s Emanu-El murdered at Israeli music fest

For days, no one knew what had become of May Naim.

The 24-year-old Israeli attended a family wedding last week before heading to southern Israel to spend time with friends, said her cousin Phil Hankin, director of education at Temple Emanu-El in San Jose.

“May ended up leaving from the wedding and drove down to the music festival,” he told J.

It was the last time her family saw her alive.

Naim left to attend the Tribe of Nova’s two-day Supernova Sukkot music festival, which became the site of a brutal massacre during the Oct. 7 Hamas assault from Gaza.

The all-night, open-air festival, which had been billed as the “essence of unity and love,” was set in a rural area near Kibbutz Re’im, about three miles from the Gaza border in the Negev Desert. Thousands of people, mostly young adults, were there.

At around 6:30 a.m., festivalgoers began hearing rockets, and then several large groups of Hamas terrorists began their attack with assault rifles and grenades. Festivalgoers were murdered as they fled in their cars, as they sprinted across open fields, and as they tried to hide in shelters and bushes.

More than 260 of them died that morning, according to the government and media reports. An unknown number were kidnapped and are being held hostage in Gaza. The death toll from across Israel that day topped 1,200 as of Oct. 11.

Naim was the granddaughter of Shlomo Scharf, former coach of the Israeli national soccer team and a well-known and somewhat controversial TV personality. Although Hankin never met his cousin, he is close with her parents and grandparents.

While the family knew Naim was attending the festival, they heard no news of her fate for days and waited in terrible uncertainty.

“We were unsure for the last number of hours and days if she was captured,” Hankin told J. this week.

She was finally identified by a volunteer — Naim’s aunt — who was helping care for the bodies of the victims. The cause of death was a gunshot to her back.

“It’s just devastating for her,” Hankin said.

Naim’s funeral was held on Oct. 11 in Israel.

Hankin said that as an educator, he has been trying to focus on how to frame the events for the children in his care and how to give them supportive, age-appropriate counsel. But now the tragedy has come home to his own family.

Although there is closure in knowing what happened to his cousin, Hankin said his own family’s grief has become part of a much larger story of anguish.

“We’re just a very small example,” he said, “of everything that’s going on.”

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.