by Leemor Valin
Tears flowed at Hebrew University's Mt. Scopus campus once again on Monday, nearly two years after nine people were killed and scores wounded in a devastating bombing, but this time they came in the midst of joyous dance.
A few hundred students and organizers from Montreal, as well as Birthright Israel founder Charles Bronfman and Foreign Ministry legal adviser Allan Baker, had come to present a new Torah scroll to the university's Hillel branch, in commemoration of those who died, on behalf of the International Hillel organization.
"This is truly a blessed gesture,” remarked Hebrew University Hillel student leader Pnina Gday.
It was a ceremony that marked both the pain of remembrance and the joy of forging new connections between the North American and Israeli student groups.
“The Torah is also known as a living tree, the tree of life.
Our mission was to bring life and happiness to the university Campus,” said Yossl Lanton, program director for Hillel Montreal.
Two years ago, Ariela Cotler, the wife of the Canada's current justice Minister Irwin Cotler, thought of a student initiated project to raise the money to have a Torah scroll made in memory of those lost in the bombing. It was then that Project M.O.S.E.S, Masses of Students Expressing Support, began.
Approximately $60,000 and two years later, the Torah is its new home at Hillel and in the ark made by hand by Shlomi Asulln, an economics student at the university.
“I just felt in my heart that I wanted to do something,"
said Asulin, who because of his generous gift was, along with Bronfman, one of those to receive the honor of writing one of the last letters on the scroll.
The giving of the Torah to the students of Hebrew University not only marked the beginning of a student-controlled place for prayer and celebration, new to the campus, but a sense of healing and closure for those most closely affected by the attack.
The scroll, clothed in a navy blue fabric with the word “shalom" embroidered on lt, is meant to inspire in students a spirit of love and strength toward Judaism and Israel, as well as for the remembrance of the four Americans and five Israelis who perished.
“We wanted to both have a spiritual component and an active physical component to this project,” remarked Lisa Bornstein, co-chair of Project M.O.S.E.S.
A NEW Torah scroll commissioned in memory of the victims at the Hebrew University on July 31, 2002, is dedicated at the campus yesterday. (Sasson Tiram)
The Montreal group also donated a check of $5,000 to One Family, an organization that provides financial and emotional support to the families of terror victims.
Marla Bennett was 24 when her life was taken in the July 31, 2002 bombing, leaving behind her family in San Diego. Bennett's best friend of 14 years, Shanna Pittman, was at the ceremony on behalf of the family.
“I feel like this will complete her," said Pittman, 26. “I know she would not have thought of anything more beautiful, or more appropriate. Her passion in life was to become a Jewish educator.”
Pittman, who now lives in Israel, was in Tel Aviv during the bombing. Monday's ceremony was her first return to the campus since then.
Bornstein expressed an oft-repeated point in her ‘speech when she said, “The victims are no longer with us, but the Torah for the jewish people is eternal, and in this way we continue to carry them with us."