His parents called him "a miracle baby." Ilai Mizrachi-Gabbitas was born Aug. 20, 2010 after his parents, Moshit and Chuck, sought help conceiving through in vitro fertilization. Ilai was one of 32 babies who could potentially come from the procedure, and the only embryo to survive. Even then, Ilai had to make it through four months frozen in the lab, then successfully emerge from a carefully calibrated process of thawing out. Moshit and Chuck named him Ilai after one of the Biblical "mighty warriors" who served as King David's guards.
"And indeed our Ilai was a warrior," his parents wrote on a website dedicated to him.
Ilai drowned in his family's pool in East Boise on Aug. 9, fewer than two weeks from his sixth birthday. The circumstances surrounding his death have not been made public, though officials referred to the tragedy as accidental.
In remembrance of the boy they called "a tough little kid, wise beyond his years and witty," Ilai's parents are working to establish a children's library at the Chabad Jewish Community Center of Idaho, where Ilai studied Hebrew.
Moshit and Chuck wrote that their son was an avid learner with deeply felt faith.
"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," they wrote. "He was our prized student. But he was also our teacher."
As of Aug. 29, a funding goal of $50,000 had garnered $35,626. The fund drive is set to end Sept. 9, which, per Jewish custom, marks the end of shloshim, the 30-day mourning period following the funeral of a next of kin.
Writing on the library fund website, donors expressed their sorrow over Ilai's death and shared reminiscences of an always-smiling child who was inquisitive and kind, beloved in his neighborhood by parents and kids alike.
Numerous entries also recollected instances when Ilai could be found helping out around his family's North End bakery, Janjou Patisserie.
"I particularly enjoyed my trips to the bakery when Ilai was there helping out or playing," wrote an anonymous donor. "The last time I saw Ilai, he was learning to ride a bike. I will miss watching that sweet, curly haired boy grow up."
To make a donation, visit ilaislibrary.com.