Always upbeat Rabbi David Silverman said the evening was about “expressing the good to those who helped start the kollel. Tonight is the time to make them proud of their investment.”
In a moving ceremony, Peyton Alexander walked in a newly completed Sefer Torah dedicated to the memory of his father-in-law, Bennie Auerbach, and presented the Torah to the rosh kollel, Rabbi Doniel Pransky.
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, Congregation Beth Jacob’s emeritus rabbi, who flew in from Israel, recalled his arrival in Atlanta 35 years before the kollel emerged. He contrasted the “dreamers in the news today to the real dreamers … couples who came as pioneers to kollel.”
He spoke fondly of Auerbach, who generously put a refrigerator and stove in Rabbi Feldman’s first house near Georgia Baptist Hospital.
Rabbi Feldman also recounted an Erev Pesach rush in 1978 to prepare remarks for President Jimmy Carter to deliver at an event at the White House attended by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and 100 rabbis, including Rabbi Feldman. As a favor to Atlantan Stuart Eizenstat, Rabbi Feldman drafted inspiring words about the significance of Israel’s 30th birthday, representing “strength.”
The charismatic kollel rabbis lined up for their traditional parody song. This year’s performance was based on “Eye of the Tiger,” with words substituted about Jewish learning and survival.
Emory University student Emily Calhoun, who grew up struggling with religion in an interfaith household in Augusta, received the kollel’s Bernie Marcus Award. She said, “In Atlanta, I saw the happiness in community events like Purim to solidify my decision for a Jewish commitment.”
Also attending were students from the Woodward Academy, even though it was their spring break.
Yad v’yad, this strength through the younger generation, reinforced the kollel’s survival theme.