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  • Theo Weller

In Memoriam: Walls Alum Dzhoy Zuckerman

The Walls Rubik’s Cube team at a competition in 2012. Dzhoy is third from right. Credits: Unknown, via William Neidecker-Gonzales / Credits: Unknown

Just after midnight on July 15, 2023, School Without Walls alum Dzhoy Zuckerman (‘15) was tragically shot and killed in Takoma, DC (per MPD). The 27-year-old was best known in DC as an avid cyclist, pedaling around the city clad in their signature purple. They were wellknown in the DC cyclist community, volunteering for many years with the DC Bike Party, a massive, once a month group ride in DC. In fact, they were the lead organizer for this year’s Bike Party Pride Ride.

Dzhoy (pronounced “joy”) was born in Ukraine but was adopted at the age of eight by the Zuckerman family in Takoma Park. They soon began playing soccer, first on neighborhood and club teams and eventually for School Without Walls. They also had a passion for juggling and helped organize a circus group that met once a week in Meridian Hill Park. After Walls, Dzhoy worked at a game and puzzle shop (another one of their passions) in Capitol Hill called Labyrinth. Dzhoy soon found the job that they loved: delivering packages around the city as a bike messenger.

When Dzhoy wasn’t cruising around DC’s streets, they were investing time into DC bike communities or events. Dzhoy often partook in the wholesome “Tour De Bike Lane,” where participants line up along a bike lane and cheer on every biker passing by Dzhoy left a big imprint on their Walls peers and teachers. Most people remember Dzhoy as a joyous person — just like their name.

During their time at the school, they were a member of the soccer team, Solar Sculpture Club, and Rubik’s Cube Club. William Neidecker-Gonzales (‘14) — founder of Rubik’s Cube Club — remembered Dzhoy’s many hobbies and skills. “I had heard rumors that [they] could solve the Rubik’s cube in 12 seconds, better than my fastest time of 14 seconds at the time. I knew I had to get [them] on our team to compete against other schools,” Neidecker-Gonzales said. “Dzhoy was an independent person and had a lot of hobbies — juggling, magic tricks, ping pong … incredible at the game go, et cetera.”

Harrison Davis, who attended Walls and graduated in 2014 and now teaches science, also remembered them. “I have a vague memory. . . of [Dzhoy] juggling a cube and solving it at the same time,” Mr. Davis recalled. “I met them again in January or February of this year for the first time since high school, and they were so distinctive with their purple bike and sweater,” he said. “Even after years, they recognized me right away and wanted to chat about what I was doing and how I was liking working at SWW. Since I’d last met them, they’d had a kid and become an avid biker.”

“Always interested in the color purple and juggling and card tricks and just all around funny stuff, they were always a positive person to be around,” recalled Jack Ewart, a fellow Walls 2015 graduate. “Definitely a unique person . . . One memory I have personally with them is they put like 200 levels of Mario and tetris and pong and all the classic games on my graphing calculator and I just played games in class all the time.”


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