Area volunteers join effort to memoralize massacre victims
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Area volunteers join effort to memoralize massacre victims

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A montage of the victims of the Merkas HaRav massacre. courtesy of Jeremy Joszef

Since December, Teaneck resident Aliza Kranzler has been alerting schools and synagogues across the country to a worldwide memorial for the eight students murdered last March at Jerusalem’s Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva.

She is one of 150 volunteers working with B’lev Echad (With One Heart), a grassroots organization begun by Yeshiva University student Jeremy Joszef from Woodmere, N.Y.

B’lev Echad aims to sign up groups and individuals for Torah learning and performing good deeds in the days leading up to the first yahrzeit of the victims. On that day, eight Torah scrolls will be dedicated at Merkaz HaRav by an anonymous donor who wanted others to participate in a meaningful way.

So far, volunteers like Kranzler – many of them Bergen County residents – have registered more than 125 groups, ranging from Ivy League Hillels to Chabad Lubavitch outposts. Joszef said B’Lev Echad is not funded or sponsored by any organization and is not soliciting funds.

Kranzler, a Stern College freshman, remembers the massacre on the night of March 6, 2008, all too well. Then a student at the nearby Michlelet Mevasseret Yerushalayim, she and her classmates had been to the yeshiva several times and were stunned when news of the shooting reached them. Afterward, she paid shiva visits to three of the grieving families.

The terror attack left 11 wounded and eight dead: Neria Cohen, 15; Segev Pniel Avihail, 15; Avraham David Moses, 16, Yehonatan Yitzhak Eldar, 16; Ro’i Roth, 18; Yohai Lipshitz, 18; Yonadav Chaim Hirshfeld, 18; and Doron Mahareta, 26.

The shooter, 26-year-old Alaa Abu Dhein, had worked as a driver at the yeshiva. He was later shot dead by a student and an off-duty soldier.

Jozsef said the family donating the Torah scrolls “wanted the dedication to be a unifying event for people all over the world, to feel involved and not just to watch.”

The dedication is to be broadcast live on blevechad.com at noon EST on Feb. 24, which corresponds to Rosh Chodesh Adar, the Hebrew date of the attack.

Joszef’s goal is to have the study of the entire Torah and Talmud completed eight times. The completion, or siyyum, is to be celebrated along with the dedication.

Arthur Poleyeff, principal of Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck, said he heard about B’lev Echad just as he and his staff were contemplating how to mark the yahrzeit of the tragedy.

“All 265 students will assemble to watch the Torah dedication,” said Poleyeff. “In addition, we also will be learning the entire Masechat [Tractate] Pesachim. Each student will learn an amud [page of Talmud], and we will make our own siyyum that morning prior to the worldwide siyyum. The kids have really taken to it.”

Last week, Kranzler and two other volunteers went to Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck to participate in a call-a-thon to register as many additional participants as possible.

“I saw there were shuls in Teaneck on the list that hadn’t signed up and I knew they would jump at the opportunity so we started contacting them,” she said. As of late last week, their e-mails had been answered positively by Teaneck’s Cong. Bnai Yeshurun and Cong. Beth Aaron.

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