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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Some boys collect books for their bar mitzvah chesed project. Some collect food for those in need. Others raise money for worthy causes, while still others volunteer their time helping children with disabilities or those who need help doing their homework. Any of these projects take an inordinate amount of time and energy and are admirable.

When Yeshivat He’Atid seventh grader Jacob Lopchinsky started thinking about his bar mitzvah he knew what he wanted to do. For the school’s first seventh-grade class, the time had come to use a Torah during morning davening. The school had a Torah on loan but did not have one of its own. After discussing it with his parents, Courtney and Avi Lopchinsky, Jacob decided he wanted to raise money to have a Torah written and donated to the school.

Jacob shared, “I started attending Yeshivat He’Atid when I was in fourth grade. Yeshivat He’Atid has taught me so many skills that I will use for the rest of my life… I wanted to make sure that not only my class, but future classes in the school would have a Torah to use during our school minyan. That’s why I chose to raise money to donate a sefer Torah to the school to make my dream of helping my school a reality.”

According to Courtney, “Jacob is part of the first class of bar mitzvahs at Yeshivat He’Atid. He really wanted the school to own its own Torah. We discussed with him how he could raise money and then we reached out to friends and family. Jacob has been so happy with the school and really felt this was a good way to give back to the school. He wrote a paragraph explaining his project with friends who shared it with friends and on social media and the donations started coming in. Students in the school, parents, people at other schools, individuals who work at companies who have matching donation programs all sent in money. The outpouring of donations was really nice.”

Courtney and Avi spoke with Rabbi Danny Senter who, among other things, brokers the writing of sefer Torahs. They asked for his guidance in choosing the most appropriate sefer Torah for a middle school. “There were a lot of angels involved in this bar mitzvah project and Rabbi Senter was definitely one of them,” said Courtney. “He was able to work out the payment schedule and we didn’t have to pay everything up front. Rav Ronen, Yeshivat He’Atid’s head of school, was also extremely helpful with the details. Jacob was involved in the entire process with Rabbi Senter and even designed the Torah cover.”

Jacob’s bar mitzvah party was the Hachnasat Sefer Torah. “We were so excited for this opportunity to have such a meaningful bar mitzvah for our son,” Courtney reflected.

Friday morning, the day before the bar mitzvah, the sofer completed the writing of the Torah at the Lopchinsky residence where Jacob wrote the last letter. Then they brought the Torah to the Young Israel of Teaneck where Jacob was the first person to lain from it at the hashkama minyan. The Lopchinskys obtained permits from the town and hired police officers to block off Palisade Avenue Sunday morning and they danced the Torah to its new home at the school.

Ora Kornbluth, Yeshivat He’Atid’s executive director, told The Jewish Link, “We’ve been fortunate to have a Torah on loan to us from the family of Andrea Fields. We’re starting our eighth year and this will be our first eighth-grade graduating class this year. Every yeshiva needs multiple Torahs and we were thinking about next steps when Courtney proposed Jacob’s bar mitzvah project and we loved the idea. We had a few bar mitzvahs this year but have a lot more coming this year. We started with 116 kids eight years ago and this coming year we’ll have close to 550. The fact that this is what Jacob wanted to do for his bar mitzvah project is a great example of our project-based learning that gives kids a way to think outside the box. You had to see him that day. He was smiling from ear to ear. This is really what he wanted.”

By Sara Kosowsky Gross