The death of 23-year-old rabbinical student Aaron Sofer is a big blow to Lakewood's tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community.

(Photo by Jay Strong, Lakewood)
(Photo by Jay Strong, Lakewood)

Sofer's body was found at the bottom of a cliff in Jerusalem, nearly a week after the young man went missing when he separated from his friend to go hiking.

Earlier in the week, many in the community banded together to help orchestrate the search for Sofer. Now they turn their attention towards supporting the family.

"We're looking to share in the pain and be there for the family," said Yaakov Wenger, a friend of the Sofer family.

Sofer is being buried in Israel, and an audio simulcast of the ceremony will allow Lakewood residents to hear the prayers and eulogies.

When news first broke of Sofer's disappearance, many feared the worst, including kidnapping. His death is now believed to have been accidental, and while the news is tragic to many, it also provides closure to the terrible situation.

"(Knowing it's accidental) makes it easier; I don't think it's better," Wenger said. "I know this could sometimes go on for a very long time."

Sofer was said to be a studious young man who almost never would have gone hiking back home. Officials say he even called his mother and asked her if going on the hike would be a good idea. Wenger believes Sofer simply got in over his head.

"It's definitely a very dangerous area," he said. "I don't think he went out on a serious hike where you see people with equipment and all that. I guess he got lost."