Sefer Torah dedicated in memory of Rabbi Groner
Last year there was a community procession behind a black van. This year there was a community procession behind a Chuppah.
Last year people kissed a coffin as they paid their last respects. This year a brand new Sefer Torah was kissed instead.
Last year there was silence. This year, music. Last year the crowd dragged their feet. This year they danced.
But although the music was lively and the dancing energetic, there was an obvious undercurrent of the loss still felt by an entire community.
The loss of a leader. The loss of a visionary. And, to nearly everyone assembled, the loss of a friend.
“He was a man who cared for everyone. He had everyone’s best interests at heart,” said Rabbi Sholom Mendel Kluwgant, Director of Public Relations in the Yeshivah Centre.
“He had a powerful, towering presence. He was completely focused on achieving communal goals but at the same time he was full of love and softness for all. This is really a true leader,” said Dassy Henenberg, a 20 year old student.
“Rabbi Groner’s stature was very big, but when you approached him his hand was so warm as you shook it,” said Rabbi Reuvi Cooper. “It felt like he was your best friend.”
“Above everything, he was a community man,” continued the 29 year old Shliach in Malvern Chabad. “He was there for everybody and wanted everyone to be involved.”
From its inception 7 months ago, the Torah dedication was community effort. All 54 Parshot of the Torah were sold to separate individuals and families, with many people voluntary “increasing the amount two-fold,” said Rabbi Kluwgant, which is “another indication of the lasting effect Rabbi Groner had.”
To further involve the community, school-aged children were encouraged to bring a gold coin to purchase a line in the Sefer Torah, added Kluwgant.
The Torah dedication, which began as a parade involving men, women and children, encapsulated what Rabbi Groner stood for, what he believed in, and most importantly, what he held dear.
“Rabbi Groner was a man of Torah. A Torah written in his memory is a fitting way of celebrating his life,” said Rabbi Kluwgant.
Symbolically, the idea of dedicating a Torah in the memory of a great man is also meaningful.
“A Sefer Torah is something that never ends. So too, the work Rabbi Groner has done will always have lasting repercussions,” commented Merv Adler.
Following the parade, the dancing continued at Yeshivah Shul – the Shul founded by Reb Zalman Serebryanski, Reb Isser Kluwgant, Reb Nochum Zalman Gurewicz and Reb Shmuel Betzalel Althaus, and later developed by Rabbi Groner, when he undertook the role of Rabbi of the Lubavitch community. Eight traditional circles were made around the Bimah. From there the crowd settled down in a nearby hall and was treated to poignant and moving speeches.
Rabbi Gidon Fox, the Guest Speaker and Rabbi of Pretoria Hebrew Congregation, addressed the crowd, emphasizing the huge self sacrifice involved in being sent as a Shliach to Australia so many years ago and the inspiring role model Rabbi Groner was.
“The Torah begins with the Hebrew letter, Beis, and ends with the letter Lamed, spelling out the word, Lev – heart,” detailed Fox. “Rabbi Groner embodied this thought. He was someone who put his heart in everything.”
The program concluded with a video of Rabbi Groner speaking at a Siyum Sefer Torah a few years ago, leaving the audience in a surreal and emotional state.
Then, slowly, the crowd dispersed. Wives went to find husbands. Children went to find mothers. And people filtered out of the hall, walking back into the sun, as living proof that life will, and does, go on.