“B’shem kedushat Sefer Torah…” It is a commandment for each Jew to write a Torah. On Sept. 10 at Congregation Anshai Torah, noted Torah scribe (sofer) Rabbi Zerach Greenfield became the agent of the Weinberg, Kushnick and Bakhshian families to fulfill the mitzvah of writing Anshai Torah’s first Project 613 congregational Torah.
“This week we read from the portion of Nitzavim-Vayeilech, in which we are given the 613th commandment, to write a Torah. The timing and the simcha is indeed a special moment for us all. For most of us, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a Sefer Torah begun and for our whole community to participate,” said Rabbi Stefan Weinberg. The husband of Wende Weinberg, of blessed memory, and the congregation’s leader, he sat with his daughters and five-month-old grandson while Rabbi Greenfield began filling in the letters of the scroll. “It’s a living document and will certainly continue our incredible legacy of thousands of years. Wende’s neshama is part of our own beresheet, our beginning. As Anshai Torah begins its 20th year, we’re committed to the obligation for this Torah to be written and it will be part of each of our souls.
“Wende was the consummate educator. She loved her students, was proud of her Jewish identity, and she felt privileged to model and teach what she cherished,” said Rabbi Weinberg. “Placing a Sefer Torah in our ark in her honor is the ideal way to memorialize Wende. She cherished Torah learning and taught with a passion. What could be more appropriate?”
With the families of Rabbis Weinberg and Michael Kushnick, and Gabbai Farzin Bakhshian at the dais, Rabbi Greenfield began the first letters of Beresheet. Members of Anshai Torah’s a cappella choir, Kol Rina, set the tone singing Hashiveinu (Return Us), Torah–Torah–Torah, and Eitz Chayim (Tree of Life).
“What a beautiful morning. I’m thrilled to see so many children here. Whatever we can do to bring our children to the community and commitment is all we can do,” said Rabbi Greenfield, who lives in Karnei Shomron, Israel, where the Torah is being written. He’ll return throughout the year to meet with those participating in the writing of the Torah and on April 15 when the Torah will be dedicated. “The Torah is a living document that each generation takes and applies to their lives, hopefully continuing to guide us to be better people.”
Greenfield is the scribe of the United States Military clergy and has worked on 200 Torahs and other Judaica projects. He met with religious-school students, parents and the congregation-at-large, explaining the process and tools used to create a Torah before beginning his holy work.
Project 613’s Torah is dedicated to the life and legacy of Wende Weinberg, Anshai Torah’s rebbetzin since its inception, a religious-school teacher and principal, and for 32 years teacher, Judaic studies and program coordinator at the Ann and Nate Levine Academy (previously Solomon Schechter Academy). She was always a role model. Her bachelor’s in developmental psychology provided her with the wisdom and deftness to touch young minds, hearts and souls — infusing them with her love, respect and admiration for Judaism. Her master’s degree in Jewish studies provided the depth needed to convey her message.
Project 613 is coordinated by Co-chairs Mojgan and Farzin Bakhshian, Jaime and Michael Cohen, Pam and Jonathan Goldminz, Jeanette and Michael Pincus, Jay and Nicole Post and 72 other honorary co-chairs.
“This Torah will always be with our children and the tie to Wende for this whole community is special,” said Nicole Post, who with Pam Goldminz welcomed participants. “We suffered an unimaginable loss last December and Project 613 is the perfect way to memorialize her commitment to Judaism, family and education.”
The community is invited to share their respect for Wende, by donating $18 for a word, $180 for a sentence, $1800 for a sedra or parsha, or $18,000 for a complete book. Donations of $5,400 can be applied to one of many special sedrot corresponding to the birthdays (B’har/B’hukotai, Ekev, Naso, Vayikra) and b’nai mitzvah (Reeh, Shimini, Tzav, Vayeshev) of Adina, Danielle, Jordana (the Weinbergs’ daughters) and Wende; Wende and Rabbi Stefan Weinberg’s wedding anniversary (Ekev); and in honor of the birth of Ariel Zev Zubery, the Weinbergs’ first grandson (Tazria/Metzora).
It takes the sofer about four hours each day to write just one column of 42 lines. With 245 columns, and 304,805 letters, it is a slow but precious and dedicated process. Rabbi Greenfield explained that the sofer follows another Torah as a guide for spacing and justification of the letters and words, purposefully leaving the word “God” out as he goes along, making that the first words each morning when his mind, hand and consciousness is most fresh.
“I go to the mikvah each morning I work to keep in mind what I’m doing, never a chance for distraction from its holiness and piety,” said Greenfield. “This links us all to Hashem and I put my heart, soul and a bit of my neshama in all that I do.”
Heart and soul — and a bit of neshama — sounds familiar. Not unlike Wende Weinberg. A match made for the Anshai community, from heaven.
For more information about Project 613, email project613@anshaiTorah.org or call Harvey Swento at 972-473-7718.
— Submitted by Deb Silverthorn