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Avichai Assouline, a third year student in the Film M.F.A. Program at the School of the Arts, has died, School of Arts Dean of Faculty Carol Becker and Dean of Students and Alumni Affairs Laila Maher announced in an email to the student body on Monday morning.

No cause of death was indicated in the email.

Prior to his time at Columbia, Assouline, who is from Jerusalem, was a filmmaking student at Sam Spiegel Film & Television School in Jerusalem while counseling at-risk Hasidic youth. He worked as a journalist at the national Hebrew-launguage daily newspaper, MAARIV, and in 2009 published his first novel, A Baby’s First Cry at 20 years old.

In 2014, he moved to the United States and soon after began the Screenwriting/Directing Concentration in the Film MFA program at Columbia. While at the School of the Arts, he wrote and directed a Purity, a short film about a Hasidic undertaker who struggles to balance with faith and work while londining for human connection in New York City. Assouline also served as an Assistant Editor for Columbia Medicine, a magazine of Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.

The Deans have been in contact with Assouline’s family and are working with the Film program to schedule a gathering in remembrance of Assouline’s life.

Read the full text of the email below.

Dear Students and Colleagues:

We are extremely saddened to share the news that Avichai Assouline, a student in the Film M.F.A. Program, Screenwriting/Directing Concentration, passed away yesterday. Avichai had just completed his third year in the program. We have been in touch with Avichai’s family and are providing support and assistance as they navigate this extraordinarily devastating circumstance. Losing a member of our community is very difficult. Words cannot describe the agony of such a loss, especially for those who were close to Avichai, as many of you were.

Avichai was originally from Jerusalem and studied filmmaking at the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School while working as a counselor for at-risk Hasidic youth. He was also a journalist at MAARIV, one of Israel’s leading newspapers. While at the School of the Arts, he wrote and directed a short film, Purity, and served as an Assistant Editor for Columbia Medicine, a magazine of Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. His first novel, A Baby’s First Cry, was published by Carmel Publishing House in Israel in 2009.

Because we all mourn in different ways, we’ve included a list of University resources below. Please do not hesitate to reach out to any of the various support and counseling services that you feel would be most helpful.

Our Student Affairs office is also available to provide support. Please don’t hesitate to contact them at 212.851.0248 or 212.851.0442, or by email at soastudentaffairs@columbia.edu. For a complete list of student resources, click here.

We will coordinate with the Film Program to schedule a gathering to remember Avichai and for anyone who would like support. Our Student Affairs Office and a representative from the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services office will be there as well. We’ll be in touch shortly to let you know when the gathering will be held.

We extend our deepest condolences to Avichai’s family and friends as we mourn this painful loss together.

With Deepest Sympathy,

Carol Becker

Dean of Faculty

Columbia University School of the Arts

Laila Maher

Dean, Student and Alumni Affairs

Columbia University School of the Arts

Information about Columbia’s Counseling and Psychological Services can be found here, and about Barnard’s Furman Counseling Center can be found here. Columbia Nightlineprovides free, anonymous peer listening services and can be reached at 212-854-7777 from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. A full list of GS and Columbia health and well-being resources can be found here.

Staff writer Valeria Escobar can be contacted at valeria.escobar@columbiaspectator.com. Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

School of the Arts Aviachai Assouline
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