When Randi Luxenberg was planning her 25th wedding anniversary, she came up with a gift idea for her husband, Arthur that was anything but same old, same old:
A newly inscribed Torah scroll.
Not just any Torah scroll. This one would be traveling the world, rotating on loan to fledgling Chabad centers that have yet to acquire their own Torah.
Working closely with Rabbi Sholom Duchman, Director of Colel Chabad, Randi cooked up the idea over a period of many months, surprising her husband shortly before the Torah was completed.
“I was called in at the last minute,” says Arthur, the Chairman of the United Soup Kitchen of Colel Chabad in Israel. And the idea, he says, is absolutely “amazing.”
Barely a week after the final letters were inscribed in the new scroll, Arthur put his cherished gift onto a flight bound for North Cyprus where his Torah would make its debut in time for Rosh Hashana.
Though he admits it was hard to part with the Torah—“which becomes like a family member,” the concept, says the attorney with Weitz and Luxenberg, should be a model for others to emulate.
“Many mainstream synagogues have more Torahs than they can reasonably use, and so they get stored away.” In fact, he points out, donors will often negotiate with their shul to guarantee that the Torah will be used at some minimum during the year.
“The point is, here you have an opportunity where there are these young Shluchim who have enough difficulties just relocating with their families, beginning to build their lives and Chabad centers, so if we can help them in this way, it’s an incredible opportunity.”
The thoughtfulness behind this idea, says Rabbi Duchman, is characteristic of Mr. Luxenberg who has partnered with Rabbi Duchman on many projects to benefit Jewish life.
“Arthur has a passion for Jewish life, and for the welfare of Chabad Shluchim in particular,” says Rabbi Duchman.
Rabbi Chaim Hillel Azimov seconds that. He never met the Luxenbergs, and is hoping they will come visit and participate in the formal Torah dedication ceremony.
“The Luxenbergs have never been to North Cyprus, and they’ve done something for a community that they don’t know, which makes their gift even more beautiful,” says the young Chabad representative.
When the Azimovs opened the Chabad House here last year, they borrowed Torah scrolls from various sources, each time for short periods.
With Chabad hosting the only minyan—and for that matter—being the sole address for anything Jewish in North Cyprus, remaining Torah-less was not an option. So when Rabbi Azimov saw a notice on a Chabad Shluchim exchange posted by Rabbi Zalman Duchman of Colel Chabad about the new Torah that will be available on loan, he jumped at the opportunity.
Returning to his tiny community a few days before Rosh Hashana, the Torah was greeted with an enthusiastic welcome by local Jews.
According to Rabbi Azimov, there are approximately 100 Jews on the north side of the island. Some have lived here for years without ever encountering another Jew. For many, being part of a Jewish community on this small island is a novelty they are beginning to enjoy. Until Chabad arrived here last year, none had imagined that come Simchat Torah, they would be dancing with a Torah on the island of North Cyprus.
The new Torah, says Rabbi Azimov, “allows us time to grow our community and eventually obtain our own Torah.”
That’s exactly the intention, says Arthur, who is hoping this will become a model for others looking for meaningful ways to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs.
“This is a challenge for many new Chabad Shluchim, and all it takes is a few people or a family to get together. I think it’s an incredible way to do something concrete.”