A crowd of almost 400 gathered at Young Israel of East Brunswick to culminate a weekend of learning dedicated to the memory of a young mother who died of cancer.
The completion of a new Torah scroll inscribed in her honor was also celebrated Oct. 30, the one-year yahrtzeit of 36-year-old Taly Cohen, who lost a six-year battle with the disease.
Cohen was stricken with lung cancer, despite never having smoked. She had a master’s degree in special education, taught Hebrew school, and was a teacher at the former Cranford branch of Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union.
The event began at the Prescott Road home where she lived with her husband, Seth, and sons Gabriel, nine, and Lev, 11. Words and phrases were inscribed in the scroll by family members with the assistance of sofer Rabbi Zvi Chaim Pincus of Brooklyn.
From the Cohen home, the scroll was carried through snowy streets to the Dunhams Corner Road synagogue. The shul’s other Torah scrolls were brought outside as people danced and sang. The completed scroll made its first journey around the sanctuary before joining the six other scrolls in the ark.
The celebration capped a weekend featuring motivational speaker Charlie Harary, who gave a number of talks about the meaning of Shabbat and Jewish spirituality.
Jeff Perlman, a cochair of the Taly Cohen Memorial Fund Campaign, said the community participated in a Torah “learn-athon.”
“Every year we plan to have a weekend of learning in her memory through the fund,” he said.
Young Israel’s Rabbi Jay Weinstein told the gathering that the message of Torah and “faith in Hashem” was “the message of Taly’s life.”
Rabbi Shraga Gross, principal of Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva, recalled how engaged Cohen was with her children’s education even as illness ravaged her. “It was always ‘my Lev and my Gabi,’” he said. “She used to tell me, ‘The most important thing I want RPRY to instill in them is menschlichkeit.’ She always came alive when talking about her children.”
Rabbi Yeshayahu Greenfeld, in an emotional speech, said he still feels his daughter’s presence; the weekend, he said, was “an unbelievable Shabbat.”
“I forever will be talking about my Taly,” said Greenfeld, dean of the North Shore Hebrew Academy on Long Island.
Seth Cohen, his voice breaking, thanked the community and said he was touched to know that “Taly’s memory will live for many generations.”