Torah scroll honors memory of life-long learner
Taly Cohen’s devotion to Torah never wavered, from the time she was diagnosed with cancer at age 30 until her death six years later.
Several months after the death of the East Brunswick mother of two, fellow congregants at the Young Israel of East Brunswick are honoring that commitment by commissioning the inscription of a Torah scroll in her memory.
Begun this month, the scroll will be dedicated in October, on the first yahrtzeit of her death.
“It’s just amazing to me that this congregation would do this in memory of my dear wife,” said her husband, Seth, in a phone interview with NJJN. “To me, this really perpetuates her memory. This will allow Torah, through her, to be passed down from generation to generation.”
On March 6 in a packed sanctuary, the first letters of the Torah were inscribed by Seth and his two sons, Gabriel, eight, and Lev, 10, as scribe Rabbi Zvi Chaim Pincus of Tiferes Stam in Brooklyn guided their hands.
At the program, it was announced that the congregation would also establish an annual scholar-in-residence program in Taly’s name to be held around her yahrtzeit.
The Cohens were married for 12 years and their children were only two and four when Taly was diagnosed with lung cancer. Ironically, Seth is an oncologist in West Long Branch who conducts research into the disease, but nothing stopped it from spreading.
‘A big impact’
Seth’s young sons have no memories of their mother as the vibrant young woman who earned a master’s degree in special education, taught Hebrew school, and was a teacher at the Cranford branch (since closed) of Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union.
Jeff Perlman, a cochair of the Taly Cohen Memorial Fund Campaign, said the project “makes a very powerful statement about who Taly was and the impact she had and continues to have on those closest to her.”
Her commitment to mitzvot and her “ability to transcend tragic circumstances,” he added, inspired an entire congregation.
Perlman said there was no incongruity in holding the ceremony on Rosh Hodesh Adar II, a month associated with joyousness, “because Torah is always joyous and a source of happiness.”
Taly’s father, Rabbi Yeshayahu Greenfeld, was overcome with emotion as he spoke of his daughter and what the community’s gesture meant to his family.
He described his daughter’s refusal to dwell on the negative no matter how sick she got and said others learned from her example. “The message Taly personified was to live life with simha to the very last moment,” said Greenfeld, dean of the North Shore Hebrew Academy on Long Island. He requested those gathered to recite “Etz Chaim” with him.
Seth recalled that his wife had no bitterness and believed God had allowed her to live as long as she did because she had generously given tzedaka to others. And instead of turning against God, he said, she used the opportunity to study Torah with her brother, Ori Greenfeld, of Queens.
Ori Greenfeld recalled that during those sessions his sister never spoke of her pain, “only her concern for others.” On the day before her death and knowing the end was near, she took out a siddur to discuss a prayer she found especially meaningful.
“She left a big impact on me,” he said. He said it was his prayer “that when we as a family and we as a community read from this Torah, hold this Torah written for Taly, that we are able to absorb the message she worked so hard to absorb.”
For information on how to contribute to the memorial fund, go to yieb.org.