School gathers to celebrate newly completed Torah


Gaby Benelyahu

DANCE: Students celebrate with new Torah donated by Stacey Kent (center) and family after watching scribe Ronnie Siegar pen the last three words.

By Nicole Soussana, Staff Writer

Shalhevet celebrated its first-ever Hachnasat Sefer Torah Oct. 29, with lively dancing and singing in the gym to welcome a newly completed scroll donated by the family of freshman Eytan and junior Zev Kent.

A Hachnasat Sefer Torah is a ceremony to begin using a new Torah scroll, and the Kent family decided to commission this one’s writing and donation to Shalhevet in memory of Mrs. Stacy Kent’s parents, Herb and Rita Reznikoff. 

“It was really important to Ranon and I to choose something to memorialize my parents that really reflected what was important to them,” said Mrs. Kent, Zev and Eytan’s mother. “Having a Torah at the school that our kids attend, that our sons can lain from and that our daughters can learn from, is something I feel would make them very happy.”

The celebration began at 8 a.m. Thursday morning with an introductory speech and dvar Torah given by Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal.  Then the crowd of faculty, students and friends and family of the Kents watched as Pico-Robertson sofer Ronnie Siegar penned the last three words.

A video camera followed Mr. Siegar writing the last three words of Devarim  — l’einei kol Yisrael,  “in the eyes of all Israel” — projected onto the gym’s front wall as the crowd watched in silence and anticipation. The scribe used black ink and quill rather than a standard pen, as required by Jewish law. 

“It was very powerful to see a Torah being completed,” said freshman Katia Surpin. “It’s something you only get to see once, if at all, in your life.”   As he completed the scroll, the room burst into dancing and song, followed by Shacharit, morning prayers. 

After the completion of the Torah, davening began and junior Zev Kent became the first person to read from the Torah donated by his parents. He read the standard portion from Parshat Vayera, as read weekly on Mondays and Thursdays according to the Parsha of the week. 

Although slightly nervous, Zev said he was happy to be given such an important role. He read the story of Avraham welcoming in the three angels into his home, displaying the Mitzvah of hachnasat orchim

“It was really cool to be able to welcome a new Sefer Torah to Shalhevet, and I felt honored to be able to read from it for the first time,” Zev said. 

Then came more dancing. With the girls on one side of the gym and boys on the other, students and teachers alike sang, danced and jumped around, switching turns holding the newly completed scroll. At first the Torah was on the boy’s side of the mechitzah (divider), but later in the celebration it was brought into the crowd of dancing girls.

Judaic Studies teacher Morah Atara Segal compared the celebration to that of Simchat Torah, proud of the level of student participation and spirit exhibited during the ceremony. 

“It was so beautiful,” Ms. Segal said. “It was very exciting for me and I loved how much the students were into it.” 

Students had only positive feedback after seeing the work of a Torah scribe. 

“It was an eye-opening experience,” said senior Derek Orenshein. “ [It] gave us a certain appreciation for the work it takes to actually write the Torah.”

Rabbi Segal thanked the Kents for their donation.

“It says incredible amounts about the values a family has when they choose to give a Sefer Torah,” said Rabbi Segal. 

Mrs. Kent described the importance and value of establishing deeply meaningful roots, which she hopes the Torah her family donated can provide to the students of Shalhevet. 

The new Torah’s cover has a black background and red writing – school colors – and says:  In loving memory of Rita and Herb Reznikoff z”l,  2015, 5775, By their children and grandchildren.