Thursday, June 30, 2022

Sholom Dreyfuss, z”l, had already been a career ba’al korei par excellence for three decades at age 42 when he was tragically taken by the COVID virus in November 2020.

Shortly following his bar mitzvah in Kew Gardens Hills, he became the regular ba’al korei for Congregation Aderes Eliyahu. Dreyfuss learned the art of punctilious leining and davening alongside his father and
grandfather, z”l, conceding no error in trop or pronunciation. He brought this precision with him, serving as the highly regarded ba’al korei at Ahavas Israel in Passaic.

Shortly after his petira, close friend Ely Markowitz, then president of Ahavas Israel, and Jonathan Pittinsky, then vice president, agreed that commissioning a sefer Torah would be the most fitting tribute to a special individual. “He spent most of his life ensuring that the tzibbur would be zoche to a perfect leining every Shabbat and Yom Tov,” said Markowitz. They sought the consent of Sholom’s wife, Chaya Dreyfuss, who readily concurred. “This was what he lived for,” she said.

Markowitz remarked, “Everybody felt that he was their best friend.” People also sought Sholom for his personal and professional advice, which he graciously provided.

Markowitz, now serving as full-time gabbai, and Pittinsky, now serving as vice president of facilities and gabbai, spearheaded the effort, along with Sholom’s longtime friend Shaya Eisenman. The sefer was written in Eretz Yisrael, with additional support from the Kew Gardens Hills, Five Towns and Baltimore communities, besides Passaic itself.

For Jonathan Pittinsky, writing a sefer Torah was the obvious response. “Sholom’s leining was beautiful and meticulous, especially Megillas Esther.” He noted that the 7 a.m. Megillah reading has been assumed by Sholom’s son. Fittingly, the mantle for Sholom’s sefer Torah includes the closing pasuk from Megillas Esther.

Rabbi Yitzchak Eisenman, rav of Congregation Ahavas Israel, said: “The Hachnasat Sefer Torah was a tremendous Kiddush Hashem. Although bittersweet, the ruchnius and magnitude of the event were uplifting and inspirational; a great source of strength for the community.”

The sefer Torah was completed at the Dreyfuss residence, with each of Sholom’s sons completing some of the letters. High Street was shoulder to shoulder with the community dancing, and the procession was led by Sholom’s father, Hershey Dreyfuss, flanked by his grandchildren. As the dancing continued towards the shul, the Torah was passed to various members of the Dreyfuss family and several shul members. The ruach and simcha were palpable, and family from as far away as Miami, Silver Spring and Queens joined the throngs of about 300 people as the crowd pulsed toward the shul.

In the traditional salute of welcome to a new sefer Torah, sifrei Torah from inside the shul were brought out to greet the new Torah, reminiscent of Simchat Torah. Finally, Rav Eisenman carried the sefer Torah inside; and Sholom’s sons placed the Torah into the Aron Kodesh, a tribute dedicated to the man who gave so much of his life to honor and cherish its every word. Rav Eisenman delivered divrei chizuk and bracha to the Dreyfuss children and all those gathered.

Rabbi Avrohom Sussman, brother-in-law of Chaya Sussman, shared his thoughts later during the seudat mitzvah. “This speaks volumes about the regard this family has for serving Hashem, and how much it meant to Sholom to educate his children in Torah. It is a statement of the community to show kavod HaTorah as an iluy nishmas for Sholom, a zechus to his neshama.”

Also fitting, the inaugural use of the new sefer Torah took place on Shabbat Parshat Kedoshim, with Sholom’s eldest son, Moshe, leining.

By Ellie Wolf


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