By Atara Beck
TORONTO – The festivities at the B’nai Brith Canada building last week surrounding the dedication of a Torah scroll for Uptown Chabad-Lubavitch marked the fifth Hachnassat Sefer Torah in less than a year and a half, each donated to a Chabad institution in the GTA and all made possible by local philanthropist Irv Teperman.
“Lubavitch has been very, very good to me and I fully support their way of thinking,” he told the Jewish Tribune. “They’re everywhere. Lubavitch has a philosophy of being non-judgmental. If you’re not that observant, they say, ‘not yet.’ They don’t chastise you. I love what they do and it works, because their shuls are growing.”
“If not for him, we wouldn’t be here celebrating today,” said Rabbi Moshe Steiner, the charismatic 26-year-old spiritual leader of Uptown Chabad-Lubavitch, in acknowledging Teperman’s generosity.
Hundreds of neighbourhood people joined the party, which included a horse-and-buggy ride, a clown and crafts for the children as well as refreshments.
The lively procession sang and danced with the Torah through the streets, while onlookers smiled, seemingly enjoying the entertainment.
For now, services for Chabad-Lubavitch Uptown are held at the B’nai Brith building on Hove Street, near Sheppard and Bathurst. Although a number of established synagogues already dot the area, about 50-60 worshippers attend Rabbi Steiner’s minyan each Shabbat, Teperman told the crowd.
“How is that?” he continued. “There are so many shuls in the area.
“I know who his [the rabbi’s] parents are. My father always told me the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Teperman immediately liked the rabbi, and “my decision was made.”
The Torah scroll has been donated in memory of Teperman’s late wife Judith (Yehudit Esther), whom he described as “a woman of valour, committed to family and to the community. It’s only fitting that this sefer Torah in memory of an extraordinary woman be given to an extraordinary rabbi.”
Judith Teperman was a victim of West Nile virus four years ago in Florida. “She was healthy and beautiful,” Teperman said in an interview. Being out of town at the time, he felt “lost.” Lubavitch in Hallandale immediately contacted the Chevra Kadisha [burial society]. “They were there within five minutes and took charge. We were back in Toronto the same day. They looked after everything and wouldn’t take a penny.”
His brother, Harry Teperman, is also a recognized philanthropist and both have been instrumental in the current plans for the new Chabad Romano Centre under construction in Maple. For now, the congregation, known as Chabad-Lubavitch of Richmond Hill (located across the street from Maple), has been renting a small storefront for weekly services and using the Elgin West Community Centre for the High Holidays.
“My son moved up there about 20 years ago and began going,” Harry Teperman explained. “It’s time to build something there.”
Irv Teperman plans to donate a sixth Torah scroll to the new Maple shul.
– Jewish Tribune