Family and friends of Stanley Cohen gathered with Yachad of New Jersey on Sunday, October 3 to honor the memory of Debby Cohen, z”l. The family commissioned, completed and donated a new sefer Torah to Yachad in memory of their dear wife, mother and grandmother.
Stanley described that initially he had discussed this plan with son-in-law Ken Saibel, associate director of Yachad. He wanted to find a meaningful way to honor and perpetuate the legacy of Debby, his wife of 61 years, who radiated Torah values to so many over the course of her life. The family agreed that they wanted Yachad to be the recipient organization.
A crowd of about 100 gathered outdoors in the covered parking lot of the Yachad New Jersey offices on Cedar Lane to complete the sefer Torah. Everyone was invited to participate in writing a single letter onto the Torah scroll parchment via the hand of sofer Rabbi Zelig Mandel, thereby “completing the sefer” with their writing. When everyone had written their letter, the family members each inscribed the final letters, followed by festive music and dancing with the new sefer Torah.
Yachad leaders and dignitaries spoke about how meaningful such a donation is, and the impact it will have for the students. Larry Rein, director of development for Yachad New Jersey, introduced speakers from the family as well as other organizational leaders. Avromie Adler, Yachad’s international director, addressed the group briefly, expressing appreciation for such a meaningful gift.
The new sefer Torah will be housed initially at the IVDU (Individual Vocational Development Unit) in Brooklyn. Rabbi Michoel Druin, head of school, expressed his deep appreciation, noting that the students have never had a sefer Torah at school, and how much it will enhance their experience and connection when they daven at school.
Cohen family daughters Lisa Schwarzbaum and Mindy Saibel also spoke, both highlighting their mother’s dedication to her work and her abiding kindness. According to Mindy, “Yachad has never had their own sefer Torah, and always had to borrow a Torah for every shabbaton, as well as for their school in Brooklyn where there is a minyan every day.” Their brother Alan and his wife Linda flew in from Israel later in the week to join for the Hachnasat Sefer Torah parade and installation at IVDU.
Stanley shared a few thoughts in his own words about Debby, his lifelong partner. “Her passion was in working with people with special needs, long before there were any organizations for children or adults with special needs. She wrote a grant for special needs programs and built from there. She started with special education classes, and did this at a time when so many special needs children had already been institutionalized.”
Stanley underscored that Debby was truly an advocate for those with special needs. Her goal, he said, “was for the students to get the services they were entitled to receive.” He also proudly noted that many of his own family members have gone into professions that are dedicated to helping others, another legacy of his wife’s influence and to the great benefit of many.