New Sefer Torah Completed in Honor of Kazi Benjamin
On Sunday, August 25, hundreds of members of the Crown Heights community gathered to mark two years since the untimely passing of Kazi (Kasriel) Benjamin, OBM.
It was a bittersweet event, as friends and relatives remembered Kazi’s warm smile and good deeds, while celebrating the completion of new Sefer Torah, which was commissioned in Kazi’s memory by the members of Itchke’s Shtiebel.
The Sefer Torah was completed at Lubavitcher Yeshiva, with hundreds of community members joining the Sofer to write the last letters of Parshas V’zos Habracha.
A joyous procession then followed the new Torah down Albany Ave. toward Maple St., arriving at Itchke’s Shtiebel, where a lively Hakafos and lavish Seudas Mitzvah took place.
Crowd-funding the Torah
After almost 2 years of trying the old fashioned way (with appeals and mailings) to raise the $35,000 needed to write a new Torah scroll and only getting about half-way to the goal, the congregants of Itchke’s Shtiebel decided to try something new.
They raised the money through the crowd-funding platform ‘IndieGoGo’ to write the Torah in honor of their departed friend.
“As far as I can tell, this is the first time one of these crowd-funding platforms was used for the purposes of writing a Torah” said Moshe Poltorak, the organizer of the campaign and a founder of Itchke’s Shtiebel. “The response was incredible!” He continued, “many people we know contributed because of the novelty of the platform and we even got donations from people outside the community.”
Kazi Benjamin, a member of Itchke’s Shtiebel, passed away in 2011 at the age of 25.
The campaign reached 30% of its goal within 48 hours, and hit the $10,000 mark in less than 7 days. In total, the online campaign brought in over $15,000 from more than 120 contributors.
“By contributing to the writing of a Torah it’s as if one completed the entire thing themselves” said Rabbi Chaim Fogelman, spiritual leader at Itchke’s Shtiebel and Director at OK Kosher Labs. “This campaign is utilizing modern technology for an ancient purpose.”