By Rabbi Arye D, Gordon
Behind the writing of every sefer torah, there is a story. This time is no different.
On Sunday morning, the 4th day of Chanukah, the 28th of Kislev, 5774, the Young Israel of North Beverly Hills celebrated the Hachnasas Sefer Torah given by Mrs. Hedy Kaufler and the Kaufler and Kaplan families. It was in memory of Reb Avraham Kaufler z”l , a Jew whose personal story was retold in the book, “Night of Remembrance: The 50th Anniversary of the Destruction of the Hungarian Jewish Community”.
Photo Credit: Arye D Gordon
One of nine children with only two surviving sisters, Avraham managed to endure a stint in the Hungarian Army (1940), which lasted until the Jews were thrown out as undesirables. He then was placed in the Hungarian Forced Labor Brigade building airfields near Debrecen. His next test of survival was living through a forced march of 20,000 that dwindled down to 1,000 by the time they reached Mathausen. Reb Avraham experienced the starvation, the hunger, the beatings and the unmentionable horrors and degradation. He managed to beat the malach hamaves (Angel of Death) and survive the death that was the lot of many, all part of the Holocaust and destruction of over 6 million kedoshei Yisroel.
Abraham managed through rachmei hashem (God’s benevolence) to pick up the broken pieces of his life and go on to marry (Hedy), immigrate to America, raise a fine family of four children and be blessed with many grandchildren.
Avraham was one in a group of survivors who found their way to Los Angeles, rebuilt their lives, maintained their religious beliefs and lived out their lives as prominent and commendable members of the Jewish Community.
And so this hachnasa sefer torah by the members of his family, was a most fitting manner to remember his life, his survival and his attachment to torah and yiddishkeit.
The Simcha began with the completion of the final Kesivas Osios (writing of Hebrew Letters in Torah) between 9-10 am in the home of Mr. & Mrs. Philip Kaufler. Rabbis, Community-wide Leaders and Members, lined up for the zechus (honor) of kesivas osios (writing a letter in the Torah).
Around 10:15, the guests gathered in front of the Kaufler home and the procession began down North Maple Drive with Mr. Beinish Kaplan carrying the new sefer under the simcha canopy, with an honor guard of torch bearing yeshiva students heading towards the Young Israel on Alden Drive. The procession was led by a Music Float sound truck with students and chazzan Nati Baram aboard, joyously leading the singing. The assembled community followed behind, dancing and singing through the streets of Beverly Hills. As the marchers reached the Shul, The Rabbi, Chazan and members came from within with the shul’s sifrei torah to welcome the new sefer. The community danced into the shul and were mesameach the occasion. The shul’s sifrei torah were returned to the Aron Kodesh and Chazan Baram, joined by the Kaufler/Kaplan children, sang “Mimkom’cha”.
The new sefer was then opened and following Hagba and Gelilah, the Chazan and the children sang “Ko Amar”. The olam then danced with the new sefer to the aron kodesh. Chazan Baram sang Mizmor l’David and Etz Chaim He.
The Community then heard from Rabbi Pini Dunner and Mr. Philip Kaufler and grandson, Mordechai Kaplan. Everyone was then invited to join in a sumptuous seudas simcha.
As the group of Survivors gets smaller and smaller, we owe it to the few left to do all we can for them and remember them, now and in the future, as we remember today, Reb Avraham Yosef Ben Chaim z”l.