Exclusive video for VIN News By Mo Gelber.
The levaya took place at 10:30 AM outside The White Shul, with approximately 1000 men, women and children in attendance to pay their respects to the Torahs, which included two from Congregation Ohab Zedek in Belle Harbor, three from the Seaside Jewish Center in Belle Harbor, one from Bais Yisroel in Bayswater (Maimonides Minyan), three from the Young Israel of Oceanside and two from the Kosnitz Shul in Seagate. The last sefer Torah came from a sofer in Far Rockaway.
The funeral included the recitation of Tehillim as well as several speakers, including Judge Martin Ritholtz, Rabbi Yaakov Feitman, Rov of Kehillas Bais Yehuda Tzvi in Cedarhurst and Rabbi Jonathan Muskat, Rabbi of Young Israel of Oceanside, with closing remarks by Rabbi Eytan Feiner of The White Shul.
“It was a very somber mood,” Rabbi Mayer Berger of Chesed Shel Emes, which helped coordinate the proceedings, told VIN News. “Everyone spoke about the point that when you see such a tragedy happen, so many Sifrei Torah destroyed, we have to reflect upon ourselves and realize that Hashem has sent us a message through the Sifrei Torah but that this tragedy was really meant for us.”
The timing of the levaya, almost seven months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the region, was intentional.
“However much we were physically damaged, and the community went through a big trauma because of that, it is clear that the spiritual damage is even greater,” said Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, Rov of Bais Medrash of Bayswater. “As people finish rebuilding their homes, getting back to normal, they tend to forget the bigger message and this was kind of an insurance that people won’t forget. People won’t forget that there are 12 Sifrei Torah that were in the Aron Kodesh that aren’t there anymore. You can replace a basement, a car and a house and you can even make a new Sefer Torah, but you can never replace a Sefer Torah.”
Rabbi Shapiro recalled that he had been asked about making a levaya for a Sefer Torah just after Sandy struck, at a time before most residents had electricity restored to their homes and felt that people were so traumatized that they would not have been able to appreciate the gravity and enormity of the loss of so many Torahs.
“Al pi halacha, you are not obligated to make a levaya for a Sefer Torah, but you do it to inspire the community,” explained Rabbi Shapiro. “At that point in time, the community was tz’klopped, they couldn’t have faced a levaya. But now, all these months later, we have to make sure that people realize that when Hashem does such a thing it is a message to us and we don’t want these 12 Sifrei Torah to have been destroyed without people realizing that they need to internalize that message.”
The NYPD closed off several streets in the area and provided a police escort for the truck which carried the Sifrei Torah from Sage Street to Empire Avenue and onto the Nassau Expressway. The Sifrei Torah were taken to the Chesed Shel Emes cemetery in Liberty, located just off of Route 52 on Hysana Road and Rabbi Berger estimated that approximately 100 people from Seagate, Borough Park, Far Rockaway and the Catskills were in attendance for the Kevura.
Rabbi Yeshaya Dovid Kaye of Congragation Ahavath Israel in Liberty spoke at the cemetery where the Sifrei Torah were buried in sealed earthenware containers.
Photos credit: Mo Gelber/VINNews.com
Kevurah at Chesed Shel Emes cemetery in Liberty, NY. Photo credit: RCSP