College students came together with World War II and Korean war veterans to benefit American troops currently fighting overseas while participating in the mitzva of writing a Torah scroll.
The Torah for the Troops project to inscribe a lightweight portable scroll for use by Jewish service personnel in the Persian Gulf brought community members to the Jewish Congregation of Concordia in Monroe and, through Rutgers Hillel, to the university’s student center in New Brunswick April 25.
The event was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County through the Jewish Welfare Board’s Jewish Chaplains’ Council, which is under the auspices of the JCCs Association of America.
Moe Ellish, quartermaster of Jewish War Veterans Post 609 in Monroe and a World War II Coast Guard veteran, said the post helped bring out many vets from the area’s adult communities who recognize that “a Torah is very important.”
Between the two events, federation raised almost $10,000 from people who donated letters, lines, and sections.
Rabbi Barry R. Baron, a colonel in the Army reserves and deputy director of the chaplains’ council, recalled being the shomer guarding the body of a Jewish soldier killed in action as he accompanied the coffin to the soldier’s home. “While a Jewish chaplain is needed when a soldier dies, he is needed even more when he is alive,” Baron said.
As people gathered around sofer Zerach Greenfield, the scribe explained different kinds of Torah scrolls.
Sandy Lenger, who brought the program to the community, said it makes connections “between our community at home and Jewish soldiers who serve us in the U.S. military; between families and individuals…writing or contributing a word or verse; and between Jews, their Torah, and the rich traditions of learning about and taking a hands-on part in a unique mitzva.”
At the Monoe program, the Bash siblings, Jonah, 10, and Dina, nine, of East Brunswick read a prayer composed by their grandfather, Rabbi Marvin Bash — rabbi emeritus of the Arlington-Fairfax Congregation in Virginia, where he also conducts Shabbat and holiday services at Fort Belvoir — to be recited before troops are deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq.
This is the first of six scrolls commissioned by the JCCA over a six-year period, each costing approximately $100,000. The Middlesex federation is the first in the nation to participate in the writing of the Torah scroll, which was completed May 10 in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol and is on its way for use by troops on Shavuot. There are about 10,000 Jewish personnel on active duty, 1,000-1,500 in the Persian Gulf.