Torah Dedicated to ‘Lone Soldier’ Who Died for Israel

Max Steinberg was determined to make a difference in the world. A native of California, he was 22 when he went to Israel for the first time in the summer of 2012 on a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip for young adults, along with his siblings Jake and Paige.

The oldest child of Stuart and Evie Steinberg of Woodland Hills, Calif., he was so impressed by his experiences that a few months later, in September, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces as a “lone soldier”—meaning he had no family there.

A sharpshooter, Steinberg was assigned to the Golani 13 brigade and rose to the rank of sergeant. He died last summer, at the age of 24, in Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza as part of “Operation Protective Edge.”

Some 30,000 people came to the funeral in Jerusalem to pay their respects, showing the family that indeed, he was not alone—and neither are they. (Back in the United States, another 1,000 individuals attended a memorial for Steinberg several weeks later in Beverly Hills, Calif.)

Steinberg followed in the path of more than 5,700 other lone soldiers currently serving in the IDF—young men and women who, in many cases, gave up the comforts of their Diaspora homes to serve the Jewish people in Israel.

Friends and family of the fallen young man wanted to create something lasting in his memory. They chose to have a new Torah written, the source of inspiration for the Jewish people.

Creating an account on “Jewcer”—a website where people can read about, and if they so choose, donate to, various different Jewishly-oriented fundraising projects—they started raising funds for the memorial Torah.

“This campaign is good for the Jewish people because the Torah represents our history, culture and values,” his parents wrote on the site. “The Torah is central to our identity as a people. We are proud and beholden to defend it. This Torah will serve as a reminder that our cultures and traditions are worth fighting for, and it will bring comfort to those protecting Jewish life.”

More than 260 people answered the call, raising some $52,000. (About $50,000 was needed to write the Torah scroll.)

With Stuart and Evie Steinberg there, the Max Steinberg Memorial Torah was presented on July 12 in Jerusalem’s Old City to Golani 13, the military company where their son found his temporary new home in Israel. The Torah is smaller than the traditional scrolls found in many synagogues to make it easier for IDF troops to carry it with them.

Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky of Chabad of the Conejo in Agoura Hills, Calif., met the Steinbergs several times and recounts that the local response to the memorial Torah was very positive, with donations coming in from a cross-section of the Jewish community in the greater Los Angeles region and beyond. The rabbi hopes that the Torah will provide the family with some nechamah—some peace and comfort—knowing it will be used by others in their son’s battalion.

Learn more about the Torah campaign in Max Steinberg’s memory here.

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