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Friday, September 22, 2023

In honor of Sophia Lambert: Tell your friends and family you love them

Sophia Lambert will be remembered for her commitment to her faith, family, friends and giving back to the community

Photo of Sophia Lambert [Courtesy of Lubavitch Chabad UF Jewish Student Center]
Photo of Sophia Lambert [Courtesy of Lubavitch Chabad UF Jewish Student Center]

“Do good, and say ‘I love you,’” is the phrase echoing through the UF community in honor of Sophia Lambert, a first-year UF theatre and psychology major who died Jan.16 after a fatal crash on West University Avenue that sent five others to the hospital. She was 18 years old.

By doing good deeds with Lambert’s name in mind, her soul can be elevated, and her presence will continue in the physical world, UF Lubavitch-Chabad Jewish Student Center Rabbi Berl Goldman said.

“She was friendly. She was humble. She was spiritual. She was charitable. She was studious,” he said. “All of those elements are a reflection of her essence.” 

In a Jewish Gator Greek Unity Shabbat memorial service held Friday at the Lubavitch-Chabad Jewish Student & Community Center to honor Lambert’s life, several Delta Phi Epsilon sisters faced a crowd of more than 400 students during a dinner and reflected on Lambert’s legacy.

“To our beautiful sister Sophia Lambert, may her life forever shine,” Shoshanna Halperin, an 18-year-old UF health science freshman, said. “When I think of her beautiful face, I see her smile. I see her radiant smile.” 

Before the memorial, students from more than 10 sororities and fraternities shared hugs and engaged in solemn conversation as they waited for the service to begin. During the memorial, rabbis read passages from the Hebrew Bible and participants lit candles and observed Shabbat services. 

Rabbi Goldman asked everyone to rise before a recitation of the “Prayer for the Soul of the Departed,” or the Kel Maleh Rachamim – first in Hebrew and then in English – a part of which reads: “Therefore, may the All-Merciful One shelter her with the cover of His wings forever, and bind her soul in the bond of life. The Lord is her heritage; may she rest in her resting place in peace; and let us say: Amen.”

Delta Phi Epsilon President Drew McNally stepped forward during the service to give a statement on behalf of the sorority. 

“Thank you all for coming tonight to celebrate her beautiful soul that’s here,” McNally said. “Please keep hugging your friends oh so tight, always say I love you, and keep doing good for Sophia.” 

Lambert’s love and care for others ran deep, Mackenzie Farkas, one of Lambert’s closest friends, said. 

“She was just the most loving, warm-hearted kind of person who wanted to change the world,” the 18-year-old UF health science major said. “She just had such big dreams to care for everyone around her.”

After growing up with a passion for the stage and helping children, the Miami native stepped onto UF’s campus Fall 2020 as a double major in theatre and psychology, Farkas said. 

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“Her energy and charisma is what attracted people to her,” she said. “She has such a bright light that anyone who even just met her for the first time is just so attracted to.” 

Lambert was a passionate person with a sincere and influential connection to her faith, Farkas said. As an active member of the UF Jewish Gator community, the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority and Dance Marathon, her involvement at UF was reflective of these qualities.

In a Facebook post shared shortly after Lambert’s death, the sorority called her a “bright light” within the sisterhood who “cared for others and loved deeply.” 

“Sophia’s passion for theatre and involvement in Dance Marathon, Chabad, Hillel, politics and Delta Phi Epsilon is a true testament to her character — beautiful inside and out,” according to the post.

Outside of her involvement at UF, Lambert spent her Memorial Day weekends in high school as a volunteer for Camp Jenny, a non- profit organization run through the Union for Reform Judaism, Camp Jenny Coordinator Julie Marsh said. Lambert would have been on Camp Jenny’s college staff this year beginning in February. 

“Her campers I'm sure left camp knowing that she loved them,” Marsh said. “And without a shadow of a doubt, I truly believe that they left camp loving Sophia.”

Lambert usually worked with the fourth- and fifth-grade students whom she connected with through a shared sense of humor and strong mentorship skills, Marsh said.

“I really believe that she showed them why it's important to be a good person to other people,” she said. “And I also truly believe that the impact and the positivity that she brought to their lives will last a lifetime.”

In a statement made Wednesday, the Gainesville Police Department said it is earnestly investigating the accident, and the Traffic Homicide Investigation Unit is seeking to determine the contributing factors to the incident.  

Two petitions were created urging for increased safety measures on University Avenue. As of Sunday, the traffic safety for UF students petition had over 21,800 signatures and the petition to install speed bumps on University Avenue had over 14,800 signatures. 

Donations to Camp Jenny can be made in Sophia’s honor through a fundraiser set up by Lambert’s friends and family. 

“She did care for everyone around her,” Farkas said. “The world is missing out on one of the brightest lights it could have had.”

Contact Abigail Hasebroock at Follow her on Twitter @abbeyhasebroock.

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Abigail Hasebroock

Abigail is a second-year journalism major covering university general assignment news for The Alligator. When she’s not catching up on school or reporting, she’s spending time outside, reading or reorganizing her Spotify playlists - usually all at the same time. 

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