The Tragic Burial of the Poile Zedek Torah Scrolls

BY
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23 Nov 2015
Inspiration

Photos courtesy of Jay Pea Productions.

Rabbi Meir Weill and Rabbi Yanky Meyer of Misaskim and Rabbi Mendy Carlebach of Chabad of Rutgers as they get ready to bury the Torah Scrolls
Rabbi Meir Weill and Rabbi Yanky Meyer of Misaskim and Rabbi Mendy Carlebach of Chabad of Rutgers as they get ready to bury the Torah Scrolls
I had the opportunity to attend the funeral of Torah scrolls and other religious articles that were burned during the recent tragic fire at Congregation Poile Zedek in New Brunswick. It felt surreal as hundreds of individuals bundled up on a cold and cloudy autumn day to participate.

It was the first time in my life (and hopefully last) that I participated in such an event. In Jewish life, after a human being, a Torah scroll is the most sacred object we have. That is why when a Torah scroll is destroyed it must receive a proper burial.

Rabbi Mykoff delivering a eulogy for the Torah scrolls at the graveside
Rabbi Mykoff delivering a eulogy for the Torah scrolls at the graveside
In this case, the Poile Zedek’s beloved spiritual leader, Rabbi Avraham Mykoff, risked his life when he ran into the fire trying to save the scrolls. Fortunately, he was able to save one before the roof collapsed and he had to evacuate the building.

After the funeral, at the shell of the burnt out synagogue, we proceeded to the cemetery where the Torah scrolls and other religious articles were buried. It too was a tearful experience, especially when the Kel Moleh prayer was recited in memory of Ezra Schwartz, HY’D, the young American yeshiva student who was tragically murdered in Israel a few days before. Ezra’s grandparents are members of the Edison community and a bus full of community members went to Sharon, MA for his funeral. After the burial of the Torah scrolls, Rabbi Mykoff recited Kaddish.

Other religious items destroyed in the fire
Other religious items destroyed in the fire
I must express my admiration of Rabbi Yanky Meyer, Rabbi Meir Weill and their team at Misaskim for the tremendous work they did on behalf of the holy objects. They painstakingly collected the objects from the debris in the Synagogue, packaged everything and were coordinating all of the activities at the funeral. Together with Rabbi Mendy Carlebach of Rutgers Chabad, they were responsible for the day’s activities.

May we blessed to only celebrate joyous occasions in our lives.

Josh Pruzansky is the New Jersey Regional Director for OU Advocacy/Teach NJS.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.