Two Mondays ago, I had the privilege of attending and participating in a unique celebration on the YU campus in Washington Heights in memory of my MTA classmate, Ari Fuld, HY”D. The MTA students made a siyum on Mishnayot on all of Seder Nezikin and the completion of a brand new Sefer Torah in Ari’s memory.
Before we even entered the siyum room, my fellow MTA classmate Zvi Rudman of Englewood and I heard singing and dancing a block away. When we arrived, we were met by the sight of hundreds of MTA students already in the throes of dancing. I worried I had arrived late, but soon realized the MTA students and their rebbeim had decided to get the incredibly leibidig (lively) dancing started a bit early as they were all finishing off the final mishnayot. It was quite a sight to see; practically every student was involved and actively participating.
MTA Head of School Rabbi Joshua Kahn began the formal program by thanking the anonymous donor of the Sefer Torah, which will be used daily at the high school. He also thanked the many members of Ari Fuld’s family who were also present, including a number of current MTA students who are all Ari’s cousins. He cited his former Mevaseret rebbe and Ari’s father, Rabbi Yonah Fuld, in explaining that his son Ari could be understood and remembered best in two ways. First, he can be compared to his namesake; a lion (which also happens to be the time honored symbol and mascot for MTA, and that Ari had an unquenchable thirst for action.
Second, Ari also had a difficult time going to sleep at the end of day if he did not fulfill all that he wanted to achieve that day and this is also something to remember about him. “Ari’s legacy,” Rabbi Kahn said, “is one of creating kedusha and of seeking out every opportunity to grow and spread the love of Hashem and his land.”
Rabbi Kahn then introduced YU President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman who began by noting that while Ari was a hero to thousands, he and his family first knew Ari as a karate teacher who was the epitome of a “gibor” to the Berman family. He noted that this quality was evident in the last moments of Ari’s life in this world.
He explained, “Ari was a person who left us with a profound legacy and there can be no greater expression of what Ari stood for and what Ari leaves us than writing a sefer Torah.”
He also noted that the terrorist who killed Ari was there for hours before attacking Ari, and that his own son had been there an hour before the attack. “Who knows how many people this terrorist passed by?...Who can understand why this happened to one of the only people who could be attacked and get up and ensure that his attacker could not hurt anyone else?” he exclaimed.
He concluded by saying, “What we do know is that we need to live our lives with a sense of shirah and the same sense of dedication that Ari lived his life, totally dedicated to Am Yisrael, Medinat Yisrael, and Torat Yisrael….This Sefer Torah is a representative of our values and we are excited to add it to our yeshiva because of what it represents….and more than being a written sefer, it needs to be a living Torah.”
After Rabbi Berman spoke, Ari Fuld’s cousins and current MTA students Elie Goldberg, Binyamin Fuld, Shaya Goldberg and Dovi Forman led the completion of the siyum in Seder Nezikin. The Torah was then led under a portable chuppah by the entire MTA student body the two blocks to the aron kodesh in the MTA building. It was a beautiful scene and many of the YU Roshei Yeshiva also participated in the singing and dancing.
I was leaving as the Torah reached its new home but I heard the singing and music reverberating from blocks away. Even as I got into my car to drive back to Teaneck, I could still hear it. I think I even hear it now as I write this article on our deadline day...and I hope that it continues.
Ari, we and the Jewish people will miss you! And a Sefer Torah in your name rests in Washington Heights at our alma mater!
By Moshe Kinderlehrer, Co-Founder & Co-Publisher, Jewish Link