The son of a well-known Santa Barbara rabbi was killed early Friday after being struck by an alleged drunken driver in Providence, R.I.

Avi Schaefer, 21, son of Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer and his wife, Laurie, was a freshman at Brown University. Gross-Schaefer leads Community Shul of Montecito and Santa Barbara.

The driver of an SUV has been charged with felony drunken-driving charges for hitting Schaefer and his girlfriend as the couple walked along the street just before 2 a.m. Friday, according to the Providence Journal. Daniel Gilcreast, 23, of North Providence, R.I., was charged with driving under the influence with death resulting and driving under the influence causing serious bodily injury.

Police say Gilcreast, who was not injured in the crash, refused to take an alcohol test at the scene. Police used a new state law to obtain a warrant to have his blood drawn to determine whether he was impaired.

Schaefer’s girlfriend, Marika Baltscheffsky, 19, a Brown exchange student from Sweden, was treated for serious injuries but was later released from a local hospital.

“Avi was an extraordinary and gifted young man, with enormous promise. His death is a devastating loss for his family, his friends, and our entire community,” Michael Rassler, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara, said in a statement Friday.

In a statement, Brown president Ruth Simmons described Schaefer as “a young man of inordinate strength and integrity.” She said he had quickly distinguished himself as a student leader who recently organized a campus-wide relief effort for victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Prior to enrolling at Brown, Schaefer served three years in the Israel Defense Forces, becoming a counter-terrorism instructor and working with special units in both the Israeli and U.S. militaries. He had expressed an interest in joining the Providence (R.I.) Police Department’s SWAT unit and had participated in several training exercises with the squad, the Providence Journal reported.

In addition to his parents, Schaefer is survived by his brothers, Elisha, Yoav and Noah, and grandparents Sylvia and Jesse Gross.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Stephen S. Wise Temple, 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles 90077. Bus transportation will be available from Santa Barbara, departing at 8:30 a.m. Monday from Congregation B’nai B’rith, 1000 San Antonio Creek Road, and arriving back in Santa Barbara at about 5 p.m. after the burial at Mount Sinai Memorial Parks & Mortuary. The fee for the bus is $20 per person. RSVP to by noon Sunday.

Friends have established a Facebook page, RIP Avi Schaefer, to share their memories and condolences.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at

Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper

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