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The Gift of a Torah Scroll

On Tuesday, July 8, 1997/Tammuz 3, 5757, the Murstein Synagogue of the Jerusalem School dedicated a Torah Scroll, written in the Sephardic tradition, presented by Hannah Yitzchaki of Kibbutz Afikim in memory of her son, Lotan.

The following are excerpts of a letter to Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman on the occasion.

These are a few words that I would have liked to have said at the Torah Scroll Dedication but were not forthcoming...

I would like to tell you about the lengthy route that I traversed until this ceremony. My son, Lotan, was killed on Tammuz 3, 5742 (June 24, 1982, in Bahumdun, Syria, in the War for the Peace of the Galilee). After I got over the initial shock, I searched for a way in which to perpetuate his memory. Prior to being drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, he served as a youth counselor at Moshav Aderet, near Jerusalem. Everyone there knew him, loved him, and came to the funeral in great numbers. I was so impressed and thought that Aderet should be the place to perpetuate his memory.

I set up a youth club, "Lotan's House," into which a great deal of work, energy and money, was invested. However, in the long run, it did not work out.

I sought something else, to be beautiful and meaningful, so I commissioned the writing of a Torah Scroll. I had contemplated the historical significance of a Torah Scroll and the direct connection that its writing today created with the distant past. I looked for a place in which the Scroll would be used and consulted with the Principal of the school at Afikim; she was prepared to accept it, with some hesitation for this was not customary and not everyone appreciates tradition as I do.

The Principal and I discussed with the Seventh Grade teacher how each boy and girl, upon reaching the age of mitzvot, would read the appropriate portion from this Torah Scroll, at school. The crafts teacher, Israel Menshari, built a traditional Sephardic "house"; together with the children in the crafts class, he constructed a very beautiful ark. For a number of years, this worked well until there was a change of teachers; the Principal was preoccupied with more important concerns, and the ark was transferred and left standing, unused, in the library. I was hurt.

I informed the school that I intended to move the Torah Scroll to another location. I spoke to Shaul Feinberg about the Torah Scroll and I asked his opinion about donating it to the synagogue of the Hebrew Union College. He was very enthusiastic with the idea. Also, Shaul, having known Lotan and our family, felt this would be a great honor that this Torah Scroll would remain in the College's synagogue. The synagogue is unostentatious yet beautiful, with comfortable seating, and its cozy ambience fits perfectly to my taste; it is a pity that I am so far away and not able to enjoy the place as do the students.

Also, my Orthodox relatives, who attended the Dedication ceremony, enjoyed it and were deeply impressed. They felt that the Torah Scroll had reached its rightful place; many will read from it and ask about its significance long after I am no longer here.

Respectfully,