Over 140 Participants of NCSY’s The Jerusalem Journey Celebrate Sefer Torah Dedication at IDF Naval Base

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11 Aug 2023

Restored Scroll Donated by NCSY Canada and Toronto’s Glowinsky Family

Over 140 Canadian teen participants of NCSY’s TJJ (The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey) program recently celebrated the donation of a restored Sefer Torah to the Israel Defense Forces’ Naval Academy for Command and Leadership in Akko by Toronto’s Glowinsky family and NCSY Canada.

Isaac Glowinsky holds the Sefer Torah dedicated in his and his wife’s honor by their children

The Hachnasat Sefer Torah was timed to mark the culmination of TJJ, a four-week, transformative touring experience in Israel for public school students in grades 9 through 12 that enables them to explore their Jewish heritage and culture by interfacing with Israel’s history and people.

“TJJ is like climbing Mount Everest with slow steps,” said NCSY Canada’s Regional Director Rabbi Shlomo Mandel. “At the peak, participants are infused with a newfound sense of Jewish pride and identity, and a love and appreciation for who they are. We built up to the crescendo of the Hachnasat Sefer Torah, and ended on such a high, because that’s what TJJ is all about – making Judaism meaningful. The soldiers are fighting to maintain Jewish identity and the Torah safeguards us spiritually; it’s a beautiful message for these teens.”

Sefer Torah donor family member Howard Glowinsky and NCSY Canada CEO Rabbi Glenn Black at the Sefer Torah dedication at the Israel Defense Forces’ Naval Academy for Command and Leadership in Akko

NCSY Canada CEO Rabbi Glenn Black noted, “This act of unity and support exemplifies the power of community, bridging the gaps between faith, patriotism, and service. Together, we forge bonds that honor our shared values and make a lasting impact on the lives of those who protect and defend our homeland.”

The celebration was made possible thanks to the generosity of Toronto siblings Howard Glowinsky, Aviva Fudem, their spouses, and other family members and friends who donated the Torah in honor of their parents, Ruth and Isaac, who arrived in Canada after the Holocaust as young refugees. The scroll was originally from Eastern Europe circa World War II, and was refurbished by Israel’s Oz VeHadar Project, which restores Sifrei Torah and connects donors with IDF units in need.

TJJ Canada participants at the Sefer Torah dedication

While the initial plan was to gift the scroll to NCSY Canada, the organization already owns one for use on national and regional shabbatons. Accordingly, Rabbi Black proposed to donate the refurbished Torah to the IDF during TJJ – but not before educating as many NCSY youth as possible about its components, significance and the mitzvah of writing one. For the Glowinskys, it was a winning idea.

“Our family is very Zionistic,” said Howard. “My wife Claire is on the board of directors of The Association for the Soldiers of Israel – Canada, and our son Sam served as a lone soldier for two years in 2017, then made Aliyah. We feel strongly about supporting the State of Israel and its soldiers, as do our parents.”

TJJ Canada participant Ethan Domb of Toronto dances with the Sefer Torah at the Israel Defense Forces’ Naval Academy for Command and Leadership in Akko

Last January, the Glowinskys and NCSY Canada launched the Netzach Yisrael Sefer Torah Campaign in tandem with the Torah’s restoration. Over 90 donors, including family members, friends and business associates of the Glowinskys, contributed over CA $100,000 for NCSY Canada Israel summer programs. 

“The campaign’s title roughly translates to ‘the Jewish people are eternal,’” said Howard. “We all play a role – Jews of the diaspora, Jews of Israel, soldiers of Israel. Being part of an eternal people means we need to act and think differently; our actions have an impact far greater than we can ever imagine. We were blessed with 613 ways to connect to eternity and we’re all a link in the chain of generations. 

“Our parents raised us to give back to the community and have stood for these values their entire lives. We felt it was important to give back to them and to show them the living legacy they gave us and their impact on others.”

Over four months, teens from Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton learned about the Sefer Torah in-depth with Rabbi Mandel’s at NCSY’s Learn and Earn group study program, on shabbatons, at NCSY Torah High accredited after-school courses, and at public-school Jewish Student Union (JSU) clubs.

“One of JSU’s initiatives is to promote Bnei Mitzvah for those who may never have had one,” said Rabbi Mandel. “Typically, we bring in a chumash and students make a mock bracha. Having an actual Torah brought the experience to life in a more real sense. Those who had a bar mitzvah re-lived those memories, and those who didn’t got to see a genuine Torah and read the words up close. The kids were really captivated, and it generated a lot of questions and interesting discussions.”

Rabbi Mandel said about half of TJJ’s 140 Canadian participants had been on the months-long educational journey leading up to the joyous dedication at Akko’s Naval Academy. Together with him, Howard and Claire Glowinsky, Rabbi Black and his wife Hennie and members of the Naval Academy, they sang and danced with excitement and pride as they escorted the Torah to its new home; a once-in-a-lifetime event that will have a lifelong impact.

“The opportunity to donate a Sefer Torah to an army base in Israel through the generosity of the Glowinsky family symbolizes the bond between our Jewish heritage and the courage and dedication of those who protect and defend Eretz Yisrael,” said Rabbi Black. “Through this act of unity, our TJJ participants are not only contributing to the strength of the Israeli army but also cultivating a deep connection to their roots and a sense of responsibility to our people. This experience will forever shape their understanding of service, sacrifice and the enduring power of Torah in shaping a better world.”