By R.M. Grossblatt
Seth Bernstein never attended Torah Day School, nor did his children. But he, his wife, Abby, and his parents, Joan and William Bernstein, are dedicating a Sefer Torah to the Toco Hills day school Sunday, Nov. 22.
The community is invited to the ceremony at the school from 10 a.m. to noon.
What attracted the Bernsteins is the school’s loyalty to its original mission. Seth Bernstein called Torah Day “the bedrock of the community” and said he admires its ability to withstand the test of time.
“My family feels like the shinier, newer things shouldn’t take away the attention from what has served for hundreds of years,” said Bernstein, a graduate of the Greenfield Hebrew Academy when it was on North Druid Hills Road.
He said GHA was his first introduction to Judaism, and “religious education should be made available to as many children as possible.”
The Torah celebration will begin with Rabbi Moshe Hiller, a sofer (scribe) and rebbe at the school, completing the final letters in the scroll. The Torah will be carried under a chuppah in a festive procession like welcoming a bride and groom.
When the procession reaches the Danny Miller Beis Midrash (chapel) inside the school, a ceremony with joyous dancing similar to Simchat Torah will begin. Then the Torah will be placed in its new home, the aron kodesh (ark). Special activities for children, including music by Rabbi Jake Czuper, are planned.
For several years the Bernsteins contributed to a fund at Torah Day to bring over a Torah from Israel. After many discussions with the Bernsteins, Rabbi Ariel Asa, a sofer, found them a Torah through a friend who is a sofer in Jerusalem. The Torah scroll was wrapped carefully and sent to Atlanta, which could be done only if the scroll wasn’t attached to the atzei chayim, the wooden rods that hold the Torah.
David Feldman took care of that special woodwork in Atlanta.
To prepare the students for the Torah dedication, Rabbi Asa taught them the laws of writing a Torah, including how the scroll is fastened to the atzei chayim. “There were a lot of good questions,” Rabbi Asa said. “They were fascinated.”
For the children in kindergarten through second grade, Rabbi Asa started off by saying, “In a few days we’re going to welcome a new friend to Torah Day School.” Then he showed them the pointed turkey feather he uses to write letters in the Torah.
For the older students, he dipped the feather into ink to help them write Hebrew letters and passed out samples of material that a Torah can be made from.
A sofer in Dunwoody, Rabbi Mordechai Danneman, was also invited to the school. He intends to show the students the turkey feather whose point he carved himself and share the care a sofer must use to write a scroll. The process includes saying the word aloud as he writes it.
Rabbi Danneman plans to ask lots of questions, such as “Where do we find out how to write a Torah?” and “Why in 2015 do we still write with a quill?”
Rabbi Joshua Einzig, the principal at Torah Day, said, “This is a great learning opportunity for the children.” He added that the boys who read from the Torah will understand how it’s made. He pointed out that
Although the school has one Torah, it needs two for holidays that coincide, such as Rosh Chodesh (the celebration of the new month) and Chanukah, Rabbi Einzig said.
Two weeks before Chanukah, the Bernsteins are dedicating the new Torah in honor of klal Yisrael (the Jewish people); that’s what will appear on the Torah’s mantle.
“In a tenuous time, what a beautiful celebration of the Jewish people,” said Marcy Kalnitz, the executive director at Torah Day. She invited everyone to “dance and sing with us” because “there’s no greater joy than handing down our holy Torah to our precious future.”