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Hundreds Mourn Loss of Westporter 'Kuti' Zeevi

WESTPORT, Conn. – Inconceivable. That's how Rabbi Robert Orkand of Westport's Temple Israel described the shooting death of longtime resident and businessman Yekutiel "Kuti" Zeevi — whose first grandchild is expected in days.

"He was beside himself with joy at the prospect of becoming a grandfather," Orkand said Sunday during Zeevi's funeral service. "It is simply inconceivable that we're here today mourning Kuti. These things don't happen in Westport. It's not right — it's not fair."

Zeevi, 65, was the owner of Y.Z. Jewelry Manufacturing at 431 Post Road E. Last Thursday night, he was shot to death in his office during a robbery. Zeevi's associate, 48-year-old New York City resident Ronen Konfino, was also shot. Konfino is now in stable condition at Norwalk Hospital.

Westport and state police were still searching for the suspect of what they're calling a "targeted" shooting.

Standing before the hundreds of mourners who packed the temple's sanctuary, Zeevi's son, Neer, broke out in tears as he talked about how his unborn son will never meet his grandfather.

"I wish very much that you got the chance to enjoy your grandson," Neer said as he choked up. Others also sobbed. "I hope he resembles your strong character, love of life and free spirit."

Zeevi's death is not the first tragedy to strike the family. Four years ago, his daughter, Tali Zeevi-Trager, died after a battle with leukemia. She was 34. "It gives me some comfort to know you're with Tali. I know you're both monkeying around up there," Neer said with a light laugh through his tears.

Zeevi was born in Tel Aviv and grew up on a farm in Israel. In his youth, he served as a commando in the Israeli navy. When Zeevi came to the United States, he started "from scratch," Neer said, yet achieved the American Dream.

Neer said his father was always a gentleman and never had a bad word to say about anyone. He was the type of person who would "give the shirt off his back" for others.

He also said his father loved America, especially Westport, where he lived for 30 years. But his father's greatest love was his wife, Nava, Neer said of his parents.

In his eulogy, Orkand described Zeevi as a "big bear of a man" who loved his family, soccer and children. He said Zeevi viewed life like "a big playground."

"He loved everyone equally and everyone, it seemed, loved him back," Orkand said. Zeevi was also an honest man who always trusted people, Orkand said, "tragically, maybe too much."

"We are deep with regret that we're not able to see his life continue," Orkand told the mourners. "But it's better to know the joy Kuti granted to us than nothing at all."

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