Transforming Tragedy to Life
On Sunday, July 10, a perfectly sunny and breezy summer day, approximately one thousand members from the diverse Baltimore Jewish community gathered together in a compelling display of unity and celebration. Swaying to the rhythm of the cheerful music, watching their children happily sucking on cold popsicles, representatives from every facet of the Jewish community rejoiced in the siyum Sefer Torah in memory of Efraim Gordon HY”D.
“You could truly feel the genuine joy in the air,” said Rabbi Dovid Reyder, cousin of Gordon. “The feeling of celebration, the feeling of a new chapter that has come upon us, the overwhelming feeling of Efraim’s spiritual presence were almost tangible.”
As Efraim’s family watched via live hookup, attendees waited on line to participate in the completion of the Torah scroll by personally inscribing a letter on parchment. Meanwhile, the other attendees greeted friends, partook of refreshments, and enjoyed the music and the beautiful weather. The event was gorgeously arranged by Lilac Lemon Events by Dassi and Ahuva.
The crowd was addressed by rabbis from the community and government dignitaries, expertly emceed by Rabbi Larry Ziffer. They shared words of inspiration, comfort, and renewed hope. Deputy Secretary of State Boranda shared his thoughts and presented a meaningful proclamation to Efraim’s family from Governor Hogan.
“The entire event underlined our determination to draw healing from horror; to turn tragedy to opportunity,” says Reb Leib Reyder, uncle of the victim. “There were markers of this transformation throughout the event. The moment when the Torah was completed and the crown was placed on its head. The moment when the joyous music struck up and we clutched the newly completed Torah tight. The moment when the other Sifrei Torah came out to greet Efraim’s Torah. The moment when the Sefer Torah was passed from hand to hand, so each person could hold it for a moment. Each of these moments marked a progression of happiness and rejoicing, turning our pain to peace.”
The procession began on Fords Lane, the very spot where the tragedy occured. Accompanied by the police and shomrim, the entire assembly accompanied the Torah on a joyous march down the specially closed streets of Fords Lane and Park Heights Avenue, to Bnei Jacob Shaarei Zion. Rabbi Dovid Heber held the new Torah as other members of the community came out to greet it with Torahs in their arms. As they entered the double doors of the hall, a five-piece band burst into joyous song.
Rabbis Hopfer, Marwick, and Kaplan were honored with the leading of the hakafos. While they chanted the verses of “Ata Hareisa,” the Torah was passed from one embrace to another as the jubilant dancing continued for over an hour and a half, accompanied by the remarkable voices of Yehuda Bergman and Sholom Rosebloom.
“It felt like a wedding!” said young Chana, who kept a careful grasp on her balloon bracelet she had just received from the on-site balloon artist.
With a substantial buffet, live band, endless singing and dancing, and a photography booth, her sentiment is readily understood.
“It was a tremendous kiddush Hashem, as everyone saw the beauty of this event,” remarked Sara Marshall, cousin of Efraim. “Even the socializing showed unity and purpose as our great community came together.”
Rabbis and dignitaries in attendance included:
Rabbi Hopfer, President of the vaad Harobim of Baltimore and Rov of Shearith Israel Congregation.
Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Maryland Region and Rov of the Shul at the Lubavitch center in Baltimore Md.
Rabbi Elchonon Lisbon, Chabad Park Heights
Rabbi Dovid Heber, Khal Ahavas Yisroel Tzemach Tzedek
Rabbi Binyamin Marwick, Congregation Shomrei Emunah
Rabbi Nesanel Kostelitz, Machzikei Torah Congregation
Rabbi Menachem Goldberger, Tiferes Yisroel – Beis Dovid
Rabbi Daniel Rose, Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion
Rabbi Jonathan Aryeh Seidemann, Kehilath B’nai Torah
Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, Agudath israel of Maryland
Rabbi Nochum Katzenelenbogen, Chabad of Owings Mills
Rabbi Yisrael Motzen, Ner tamid – greenspring valley synagogue
Rabbi Shmuel Gurary, Rabbi of Chabad Israeli center in Baltimore
Rabbi Nisson Dov Miller, Star K
Rabbi Moshe Slavaticki, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Baltimore
Rabbi Nochum Levin, Young Anash Congregation
Rabbi Nochum Bukiet, Mashpa Yeshivas Lubavitch Baltimore
Rabbi Chesky Tenenbaum, Rabbi of the Jewish Uniform association of Maryland
Rabbi Chanina Szendro, Yeshivas toras chaim Baltimore
Congressman Kweisi Mfume,
Deputy Secretary of the State of Maryland, Luis E. Boranda
Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer – District 5
Delegate Sammy Rosenberg
Delegate Jon Cardin
If you would like the Zechus to take part of this Torah, you may do so at Charidy.com/efraim.
The family would like to personally thank the community for coming out and standing up for the safety and integrity of our city, as well as the generous sponsors and supporters that made the event a possibility.
Photo credits: Avi Dear