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Each year Jody and I have the honor of holding the Torah on Kol Nidre along with the Spirtas and Schwarz families. Each Torah at Adat Shalom comes with a rich story worth telling.
The Shapiro Torah was donated by Jody’s Uncle Lou in 1995 the same year as my father Len Shapiro’s passing while I was President of the synagogue. Lou Eisenstein’s story is inspiring and partly explains why he was so moved to donate the Torah.
About two years prior, sometime in 1993 Lou was driving over the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island when his van caught fire. A car of flight attendants were on the opposite side of the bridge, stopped their car, ran across the bridge to pull him out of the car and cover him in blankets. He was taken to Staten Island hospital where he was lying on a gurney in the emergency room, unattended with burns covering his entire body and near death. His nephew, a physician, who never makes rounds at Staten Island Hospital happened to be in the ER at that time and saw his Uncle and immediately had him sent to Cornell University’s burn trauma center. Lou would have likely died at that time had his nephew not been there.
Jody and I visited Lou shortly after his treatments had begun to find him bandaged almost as a mummy suffering from first-degree burns. He made Jody promise at the time that she would Bensch Licht (light candles) on Friday night if he survived. Jody was not raised lighting candles and really did not know the routine. Well Uncle Lou did survive for many years and Jody started lighting Friday night candles ‘religiously’ and continues to this day. The process as many of you know is splendid as a way to demark the end of the week and start of the day of rest, praise to G*d, learning, beauty, and Torah.
Uncle Lou was present for the Torah dedication at the JCC in 1995 when we were meeting there. He stood on the bimah and simply shared that he was donating the Torah because of his niece and nephews dedication to Adat Shalom. Jody then shared the story about his accident and how she kept her word lighting candles which was the real reason, because he lived to see the Torah safely in our home.
So when you see Jody and me with the Torah on Kol Nidre please free to share in this covenant and begin lighting candles on Shabbat (if you are not already doing so).
Uncle Lou passed away about five years after he had donated the Torah to the synagogue. Literally the day that he passed our Torah School was crafting Yads and reading from his Torah in the classrooms. The Yads were full of glitter that had not fully been glued and dripped onto the Torah parchment. Oy, you could imagine!! The scroll was cleaned and there was no lasting damage. But the moral here was that Lou touched the souls, hearts and minds of our youth by creating the opportunity for them to read Torah.