The community came out in force on Sunday, May 18, as the Hebrew High School of New England (HHNE) in West Hartford, Conn., welcomed their first sefer Torah. For HHNE, it was the culmination of a year-long fundraising campaign, during which members of the community were welcome to dedicate anything from a single word to an entire book of the Torah. For Sam and Judy Leichtberg, who sponsored and dedicated the Torah, it was the fullfilment of a promise they made to Sam’s parents, Abraham and Miriam Leichtberg z”l, to enact the 613th mitzvah to write a sefer Torah.
“Today’s proceedings are really so much more than a welcoming of a new Torah. They are truly a celebration of family; of life; of faith… a loving tribute by the Leichtberg family to the past, present and future both of their own family and of the HHNE family and, indeed, the entire community,” said HHNE President David Rosen.
The day began with the filling in of the final letters of the Torah. Supervised by a sofer (scribe), individuals were called up one at a time to receive the honor of filling in a letter, thereby sharing the mitzvah. Then, surrounded by family and friends, Sam Leichtberg led the way from the Mandell Jewish Community Center, where the inscription took place, across the street to HHNE, where he read the final lines of the Torah before it was placed in its new home.
HHNE head of school Rabbi Daniel Loew thanked both the Leichbergs and Congregations B’nai Torah in Longmeadow, Mass. and Agudas Achim in West Hartford, who had both loaned the school sifrei Torah since the school opened its doors in the Grinspoon-Konover Building three years ago.
“We are so grateful to Agudas Achim and B’nai Torah for the use of their sifrei Torah. HHNE is fortunate to have such strong friends in other local Jewish organizations such as these,” said Loew.
Judy Leichtberg reflected on the day’s events, saying, “The Torah dedication and the community’s response were especially meaningful for me. It afforded me the privileged opportunity to honor and thank the Hebrew High School of New England and to ‘pay it forward’ to our community. HHNE was a major factor in my daughter’s decision to move to West Hartford with her family. I feel blessed as I watch my two older grandchildren become remarkable young women as students of the school.”