Glendale Torah scroll ceremony | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Glendale Torah scroll ceremony 

The Dec. 3 Torah scroll dedication at Chabad of Glendale, sponsored by Lubavitch of Wisconsin with participation from the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, was a profoundly emotional experience.  

I flew in from Florida with family. Hundreds of Wisconsin Jews, spanning religious, secular, atheists and agnostics, were present at Chabad, symbolizing how the Torah transcends denominational differences. 

The Torah was written in honor of my grandparents, Rueven and Leah Helman, for the people of Israel, and as a symbol of resilience for Jews worldwide facing discrimination. 

Post Oct. 7, the specter of antisemitism has become more pervasive. Jewish faculty at my undergraduate alma mater, Marquette University, recently received death threats, and some students are supporting Hamas. In Madison, neo-Nazis marched, brandishing swastika flags. 

Yet, in Wisconsin and beyond, such hatred paradoxically forges a stronger, more united Jewish community, similar to how fire tempers steel or intense pressure crystallizes carbon atoms into diamonds. 

Yadin Gellman, the event guest speaker, detailed his valiant actions on Oct. 7, when he saved numerous lives as a reservist in the Israeli military, engaging in combat with Hamas and rescuing civilians. Despite receiving two bullets to the chest and being mortally wounded, he incredibly survived.  

Interestingly, we discovered that we are likely related because Yadin’s original surname is Helman, the same as my grandfather’s, and he hails from the same region in Europe. (It appears that many Helmans adopted the name Gellman upon relocating from the Old Country). 

My grandfather Rueven represented Israel in the Maccabiah Olympics, competing in the decathlon and winning medals in weightlifting. He fought against the Nazis during World War II in the British Brigades, as well as in the 1948 War of Independence, the 1967 Six-Day War, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The revered Rebbe once handed him a Torah during the Simchat Torah holiday, a time when we dance with the Torah, and said, “Dance like a true champion!” This was a poignant reminder that true strength lies in the Torah, not merely in human effort. 

In 1970, my grandmother Leah wrote to the Rebbe, asking if it would be appropriate to complete the Torah that the previous Rebbe had started during World War II. The Rebbe later referred to her in a public talk as the “woman from Kfar Chabad,” where she lived, acknowledging her as an impetus and inspiration for completing the Moshiach Torah on the 10th of Shevat 1970. 

Writing a Torah to honor my grandparents, Rueven and Leah, and for Israel stands as a profoundly meaningful tribute. 

My grandparents have entered and departed this world, leaving a lasting legacy. I, too, hope to leave a positive mark. The enduring legacy lies in the values we impart. The Torah’s eternal essence has outlived grand civilizations like Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Rome, even as the Jewish people faced expulsion following the destruction of the Temples. Mark Twain famously asked “What is the secret of the Jews’ immortality?” The answer is straightforward: the enduring bond of the Torah.  

I feel honored and grateful to continue this legacy of the Torah, which guides Western civilization and sustains the Jewish people’s continuity. 

Eli Federman has written in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Reuters, and elsewhere.