Original Article Published on The Jewish Ledger
WARSAW — Why would 15 day school teachers and administrators come to school at 10pm on a Saturday night? Because the staff of the Lauder-Morasha School, under the leadership of principal Helise Lieberman is eager to talk about and to show off their 250-student day school.
Dr. Norman Ravski, co-chair of the New Haven delegation to the March of the Living in Poland, welcomes the late night visitors.
“We are proud to have a strong bond with the Warsaw and Lauder Morasha communities,” reports Ravski, who went on to recount how the special relationship between Warsaw’s Lauder-Morasha School and Woodbridge’s Ezra Academy has unfolded during the past four years. Dr. Henry Spencer, also a Woodbridge resident and Ezra parent, was intrigued when he came across an article about the Lauder-Morasha school in a New York Jewish newspaper several years ago. When Spencer traveled to Poland as part of a genealogical research project, he made a point of stopping at the school.
Upon returning to Connecticut, Spencer shared his experiences at the school with the students at Ezra. Three students, Evan Ravski, Mika Larrison, and Deborah Krieger, who would soon be traveling to Poland and Israel on the March of the Living, were similarly intrigued. When they had an opportunity to visit the Lauder-Morasha school, they wanted to see the school’s Torah which they couldn’t seem to find anywhere. “Why do you have to have such tight security? Is your Torah locked up?” Ravski wondered.
Lieberman answered, “We don’t have a Torah!”
Ravski, Larrison and Krieger were dumbfounded. With the help of Dr. Spencer, the students approached the Ezra staff, board and student body, and requested help in securing a Torah for the Warsaw school. At the time, Ezra owned a kosher Torah and a “pasul” (non-kosher) Torah.
Under the leadership of Shelley Krieger, the Ezra Academy embarked on an extraordinary school and community-wide learning and social actions adventure: the students learned how Torahs are made, what makes a Torah kosher, and they raised nearly $7,000 for the repair of the scroll. A sofer ultimately repaired the Torah, and the entire student body, under the direction of local artist, Jeanette Kuvin Oren, designed and decorated a Torah mantle.
Just after Shavuot, 31 adults from New Haven and several Ezra upperclassmen, traveled to Poland to present the Torah scroll.
“This was perhaps the greatest moment of my ten years at Ezra,” observes Krieger, who described the love and care shown toward the Torah throughout the trip to Poland. “Everyone took turns ‘guarding’ the Torah — on the bus, on the plane [the Torah had its own seat!], at Auschwitz [the Torah couldn’t enter since Auschwitz is considered to be a cemetery], and while touring Poland.
The Torah was presented to the school at the end of the trip, and the delegation was greeted by singing and dancing children who lined the stairways of the Lauder-Morasha school.
Lieberman introduced her staff, who joined the New Haven delegation for a moving Havdalah service and led tours of the impressive school building, a former old-age home whose purchase was financed by philanthropist, former-Ambassador Ronald Lauder. As the group enjoyed Polish pastries, Lieberman commented on the timing of the group’s visit.
“We lend the Torah to the Nozyk Synagogue when necessary (i.e. Sabbaths and holidays when two Torahs are needed). They have to insure that love and care will be shown to the scroll. Just today, the synagogue dedicated a new Torah scroll. Now, we can take our Torah back.”
Lieberman praised the New Haven delegation, many parents of current or former Ezra Academy students.
“The Torah symbolizes a real commitment, a relationship that will go on forever, into the next generation.”