This past Sunday, October 29, Anshei Lubavitch of Fair Lawn welcomed a brand-new Torah scroll with a grand siyum sefer Torah ceremony and celebration. Nearly 1,000 people showed up to participate in the conclusion of the writing of the Torah, dance and enjoy live music. The children were also encouraged to join the festivities, dancing and the special activities prepared especially for them. While the inclement weather forced the cancellation of the planned parade, it did not dampen the spirits of those who attended.
Jordan Rockowitz, who attends the shul along with his wife and three children, said the event was “fun, spirited and a great community event.” Rockowitz particularly appreciated the ruach and the dancing. His son, 15-year-old Matan, dressed up as a sefer Torah and danced with children, who loved his costume.
Rephael Hirsch also attended the event. He has been a regular at the shul since he arrived in Fair Lawn 12 years ago. Hirsch is a ba’al korei. He volunteered to read for the congregation shortly after he arrived in town, as he noticed the regular Torah reader was overwhelmed. When the other ba’al korei left a few months later, Hirsch became the shul’s regular Torah reader. He said, “Until this year I read approximately 90 percent of the time. This year, another ba’al korei has joined the shul who reads well and has also volunteered to read.”
Anshei Lubavitch, which was founded in 1909, has a number of sifrei Torah. However, according to Rabbi Neubort, the shul’s rabbi, the other Torahs are all prewar. While the shul’s Torahs are kept in good condition by Hirsch (who is a certified sofer STaM), the excitement of getting the new Torah was felt by everyone in the shul, including those children who attend Anshei Lubavitch’s preschool. “As we were getting closer to the end of the Torah project, the children were very excited and they made special banners and flags to welcome the Torah to their school. We feel great pride in our students and their excitement is our reward,” said Rabbi Neubort.
The new Torah is particularly meaningful to Rabbi Neubort and his family. The Torah is being dedicated in honor of a refuah shleima for the rabbi’s brother and mother. “We thought the best way to honor them [mother and brother] would be to dedicate a sefer Torah because it is the tree of life and, as Mishlei says, it ‘provides life for those who find it and heals all flesh.’”
The writing of the Torah began on September 20, 2015, 7 Tishrei. The actual writing took about a year and was done by Rabbi Alperowitz of Jerusalem. He was commissioned by Rabbi Neubort’s father, who researched different scribes. “He saw samples from various scribes and this one caught his eye. There were other people ahead of us, but my father liked it so much he was willing to wait until Rabbi Alperovitch could start,” said Rabbi Neubort.
Since he is both a ba’al korei and sofer, Hirsch offered up a unique perspective on the new Torah. “As a sofer, I love the old sifrei Torah and their style and ornateness. However, like a championship baseball team, there comes a time when you need to bring in young players to replace the older players, and I’m excited that we have a new Torah coming in.” Rabbi Hirsch is of the belief that each sefer Torah has a personality that is impacted by the effort put in by the sofer.
This newest Torah is the first one that has been specifically written for Anshei Lubavitch. According to Rabbi Neubort, this makes it very meaningful to the congregation. For Rockowitz, this Torah is particularly special because it is sponsored by the Neubort family.
“A siyum Sefer Torah,” says Rabbi Avrohom Bergstein, associate rabbi at Anshei Lubavitch, “is a momentous occasion, not only for the congregation that will own the Torah but for the entire city that is home to the congregation. The Fair Lawn Jewish community collectively celebrated the welcoming of this new Torah, and that was heartwarming to see.”
As the three-plus-hour celebration to welcome the new Torah came to an end, Rabbi Neubort reflected, “Seeing my mother and brother honored with the last letter was an amazing, emotional experience.” He notes there was a great energy in the crowd, and people were excited and spiritually uplifted as they saw the Torah being completed.
However, a Torah is meant to be read. And that’s just what they will do at Anshei Lubavitch with their new Torah. With Shabbat coming, the Torah will be pulled out of the ark, placed on the bima and read from by the ba’al korei. As Hirsch put it, “Perhaps, if you listen, you will hear the other sifrei Torah kvelling at what a great job the youngster is doing.”
While all the Torahs are special to Rabbi Neubort, he has no doubt he will have a special affinity for this one.
By Larry Bernstein