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Sefer Torah from SA part of a moving ceremony in Israel

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SUZANNE BELLING

Pictured : Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, CEO and spiritual leader of the African Jewish Congress; Yossi Silberhaft; and Rabbi Dovid Hazdan, spiritual leader of the Great Park Synagogue, with the Sefer Torah they brought from South Africa for the Hachnasat Sifrei Torah at the Kotel last week.

The 75 Torah scrolls were donated from various countries, with Africa’s contribution being an inscribed Sefer Torah contributed by the Great Park Synagogue in Johannesburg and the African Jewish Congress, represented by Rabbi Dovid Hazdan and Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft.

Called the Kesher Lanetzach (Bond for Eternity) project, its mission was to dedicate the Sifrei Torah to the 67 soldiers who fell in defence of Israel and eight civilians who were also killed in last year’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

“Surrounded by thousands of bereaved families whose loved ones had made the supreme sacrifice, our tears of sadness mixed interchangeably with those of joy. We felt the pain of inconsolable loss even as we felt the powerful, reassuring eternal bonds of Am Yisrael, our Torah and Yerushalayim,” Rabbi Hazdan told the SA Jewish Report.

“The Kotel reverberated with the sounds of weeping as images of brave young men going to battle, appeared on the screen while Yizkor was intoned… I feel privileged to have carried a Torah from South Africa on behalf of the Great Park community and to have participated in this monumental outpouring of soul expressing the faith, commitment, love and unity of our people,” he said. 

Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, CEO and spiritual leader of the AJC, said the Torah scroll had been in need of repair and local donors had contributed towards this. A disc on one of the handles of the Torah was inscribed to indicate that it came from this country.

“Besides being a delight and an honour, the atmosphere was very powerful, with tears of both sadness and joy,” Rabbi Silberhaft said. “I have never experienced anything of this magnitude and proof of the unity of the Jewish people and the centrality of Israel to our lives. This wonderful effort to remember Israel’s fallen is a tribute of the highest order.”

Rabbi Silberhaft was joined by his son, Yossi, who lives in Israel.

The other participating countries were Brazil, Canada (Montreal and Toronto), Chile, Egypt, France (Paris), Israel, Mexico, Morocco, Romania, Spain, US (California and Florida).

Many of the Sifrei Torah came from survivors of the Holocaust in Romania.

The event was sponsored by the Israeli NGO Lema’an Bitachon Israel (Libi) – For the Security of Israel – and the international Young Israel Movement (Israel branch) was invited to be a partner at the ceremony because of its previous success in donating over 215 Sifrei Torah to army, navy and air force units throughout Israel.

The 75 Sifrei Torah will be sent to each of the eight IDF brigades, synagogues, prisons and institutions throughout Israel.

The programme began with the blowing of the shofar. IDF chief chazzan, Shai Abramson, and the IDF choir led the musical part of the ceremony.

Because of the size of the crowd, thousands more people in the Old City could not get close to the Western Wall. A live video feed enabled those at home to witness the moving ceremony.

The entire effort was spearheaded by Laurent Amram of Montreal, with Kesher Lanetzach.

 

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