It all started with a broken clothes dryer. That malfunctioning appliance took one man on a journey to Israel, brought another back to the local community, and ended with a new Torah scroll for Congregation Ahavas Yisrael in Edison.
When Steve Josefovitz, aka the “Appliance Doctor,” went to the Edison home of Pesach and Celia Minkin to fix their dryer last year, he learned that their son, Shaul Eliezer, was a sofer, or scribe, in Israel. Josefovitz decided to commission a klaf — the parchment inscribed with blessings that is encased in a mezuza.
He was so impressed with its quality, he decided to do something he had long wanted to do — have a Torah scroll written in memory of his parents, Helen and Max. The Czech natives had come to the United States before World War II but lost most of their families in the Holocaust.
Josefovitz and his siblings, Larry of Cleveland and Bertha Bernstein of Hillcrest, NY, had been discussing the project for years. When he discovered Shaul Minkin, they decided to go ahead. So last summer Josefovitz flew to Israel to meet with the scribe and make plans for the scroll.
On June 23, the day before his father’s fifth yahrtzeit, family and local community members packed into the Eardley Road home of Josefovitz and his wife, Tova, to watch as Minkin completed the scroll, before parading it under a huppa about a quarter-mile to the synagogue.
Sitting in a dining room just three blocks from where he grew up, Minkin painstakingly wrote on the parchment and assisted as community members inscribed individual letters. He was intently focused on his work, but at one point looked up to see his mother and grandmother, Marian Jaffe of Highland Park, sitting nearby.
He broke into a broad smile, and said, “Hi Grandma. Are you enjoying yourself?”
Neither had ever seen Minkin practicing his craft, and a beaming Jaffe was indeed having a good time, telling NJJN, “This is incredible to me; I couldn’t have dreamed this up.”
The very last letter was inscribed by Josefovitz, who had inscribed the first one in Israel.
The scroll is the third for the synagogue, but its first new one. The more than 20-year-old congregation started in Josefovitz’s basement and moved to its current rented site on the corner of Route 27 and Campbell Street five years ago. The congregation is raising funds to buy the building.
“This is a fantastic milestone for the synagogue,” said Rabbi Gedaliah Jaffe. “The Josefovitz family has always been very generous with its time and resources. Now they’ve given us this beautiful sefer Torah, which only elevates our ability to serve the community.”
“Usually it takes a year to write a Torah,” said Josefovitz, but Minkin completed it in under eight months, because, said his mother, he worked 10 hours a day on the scroll. The 28-year-old sofer lives with his wife and two daughters on Beit Hilkiya, an Orthodox moshav.
Minkin, who grew up attending Agudath Israel of Edison/Highland Park and Congregation Ohav Emeth in Highland Park, made aliya nine years ago. When he was getting married six years ago, the head of the yeshiva where he was studying suggested he consider training to become a sofer.
When he began the work, Minkin said, “I felt like I had a commandment. I strive for perfection and really enjoy it.”
In a phone interview a few days later, Minkin said the celebration in Edison “really was a sentimental occasion that brought me a lot of nachas.”
Ohav Emeth’s Rabbi Eliyahu Kaufman, who attended the June 23 event, said of Minkin, “When you have a young man who grew up in this community who is a living example of both writing a sefer Torah and being a sefer Torah, that is the greatest blessing of all.
Josefovitz called NJJN on June 25 to say that the day before — on his father’s yahrtzeit — his daughter-in-law had given birth to a grandson, bringing joy to a sad day.
“If you do good, you get good,” he said. “God takes care of you.”