The first day of Adar, which became a day of mourning in Israel last year when eight young yeshiva students were murdered in a terrorist attack, will be a day of celebration again this year.
In the same Jerusalem location.
Mercaz HaRav, the Modern Orthodox yeshiva where the high school and post-high school students lost their lives, will host on Feb. 24 – the first yahrzeit of the murders – a dedication ceremony for eight new Torah scrolls. The Hachnasas Sefer Torah will be broadcast on the Internet, and will include scenes of singing and dancing, speeches marking the completion of Torah learned in the young men’s memories, interviews with prominent leaders and members of the victims’ families, and information about day schools and other Jewish organizations around the world taking part in the Web event.
The sifrei Torah, commissioned by an anonymous New York-area donor and written by an Israeli Torah scribe, are a symbol of life and will be given to the families of the murdered students, says Jeremy Joszef, a Woodmere resident and recent Yeshiva University graduate who is serving as director of the event sponsored by the unaffiliated, apolitical B’lev Echad (With One Heart) organization.
“This is about the families – the families lost their sons,” Joszef says. “This is about bringing nechama (comfort) to the families. They can decide whatever they want to do” with the Torah scrolls. Most have indicated they will give the Torahs to a school or synagogue.
Members of the victims’ families will participate in the dedication ceremony, which will start in the street outside the building, and finish inside, where signs of the attack are still evident. “You can see the bullet holes on the floor,” Joszef says.
The attack, committed by an East Jerusalem Arab who had reportedly worked as a driver for the yeshiva, galvanized Israel’s Orthodox and non-Orthodox communities, drawing thousands of mourners to the funerals. “This attack was an attack on Torah. People around the world responded to that,” Joszef says. “Somebody went into a yeshiva and killed eight kids while they were learning Torah. It hit a deep core of people.”
As part of the event, B’lev Echad has produced an educational curriculum for participating schools, and is sponsoring a mitzvah project, encouraging members of the Jewish community to focus on specific mitzvoth in the eight students’ memory.
The Torah dedication will be the yeshiva’s “major” memorial event, Joszef says. Individual families will also organize private memorials.
“We remember and move on,” Joszef says. “That’s what they [the victims’ families] want it to be about.”