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Shomrei Torah to Honor Dr. Ira Cochin at Torah Web Dinner

Fair Lawn—Dr. Ira Cochin grew up in a cold-water flat in the late 20s and 30s, and has managed an academic career in engineering by overcoming the challenges of being blind and deaf. “He’s just a special guy,” says Mendy Aron, the head of Shomrei Torah’s Torah Tuesday programming. Cochin is being honored by Shomrei Torah on Presidents’ Day.

According to Aron and autobiographical information from Cochin’s books, he lost an eye during basic training for World War II, but the medics and doctors were able to salvage the sight in his other eye. He went on to earn a degree in engineering and worked for various companies before becoming a professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). But during his tenure, Dr. Cochin lost his sight again, and this time, he also became deaf. Refusing to give up, he took lessons at the Hellen Keller Center for the Deaf-Blind, and astonishingly, came back to NJIT to continue teaching. “He’s the only blind-and-deaf professor that taught engineering,” Aron says.

On Presidents’ Day, Shomrei Torah will celebrate Cochin’s book Tales of the Holocaust, released in November 2013. The book recounts the story of Philip Gringiul, a Holocaust survivor who helped save his fellow Jews but lost his hands and voice in a concentration camp. Cochin, who worked with Gringuiul and helped him mainstream, helped him work on a pedal-operated typewriter so he could tell his story.

Aron calls the event “an evening of Torah, dinner, and chesed.” The Torah element comes from Rabbi Mordechai Willig and Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, the guest speakers. Rabbi Willig will give a talk on “What I Did vs. What I Am,” while Rabbi Twerski will be discussing “Middle Age and Beyond.” The speakers are being presented by Torah Web, while the dinner and honor will be presented by Torah Tuesday. The lectures are free that night, but the dinner will cost you $25.

Aron believes the chesed element is in recognizing and appreciating Dr. Cochin, his life, and his book. “It’s very meaningful to him that people come, that he gets some recognition… To be able to do that for somebody is a very big chesed.”

The event fits into the overall Torah Tuesday programming, which includes various other shiurim, dinners, and community events. “Our Torah Tuesday events always expand,” Aron explains. “We’re always interested in learning, and then there’s always the educational piece, and there’s always the chesed piece, like we did in the summertime for the [kidnapped] boys in Eretz Yisrael… Those are always the pivotal pieces that we try to cover.

“Our motto is this,” he continues. “We’re not just a bunch of old guys sitting around and learning. We want to do more than that.”

The dinner, which begins at 6:45 p.m. at Shomrei Torah on February 16, costs $25 per person, by reservation only. Sponsorships are $100 (includes two dinner reservations). To make a reservation or sponsorship, contact Mendy Aron at [email protected].

By Oren Oppenheim

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