Hachnasas Sefer Torah Held at Chicago’s Kollel Ateres Ami

Rabbi Aryeh Shulman, Rosh Kollel, doing hagbahah with the new sefer Torah at Kollel Ateres Ami.

On Sunday, August 30, Kollel Ateres Ami hosted a beautiful, COVID-compliant hachnasas sefer Torah.

Kollel Ateres Ami was founded four years ago, with the mission of addressing the needs of the Chicago Jewish population who did not grow up with the privilege of learning in yeshivah and have since come to Torah and mitzvos, many of whom are from the former Soviet Union. The kollel strives to create a place for them to continue growing in a life of Torah and mitzvos. Since its inception, the kollel has seen tremendous success, and participants come from a wide range of backgrounds, both Russian and American, from across Chicagoland.

However, until now, the kollel has been using a borrowed sefer Torah and recently there was a community-wide effort to help the kollel acquire its own sefer Torah. “People felt that as we were learning and teaching Torah together, we should have our own sefer Torah,” asserted Rabbi Aryeh Shulman, Rosh Kollel. “They were also anxious to bring a ruach of excitement and simchah to the community after the past difficult six months in Chicago, with corona, looting, rioting and a recent tornado. Despite the complexities of organizing a hachnasas sefer Torah during corona, with a careful balance of everyone’s health on one hand, and not suffocating the simchah on the other hand, we had a beautiful, outdoor event, with a great turnout and tremendous simchah.”

The sefer Torah was purchased in Eretz Yisrael, and the final kesivas osiyos was done by Rabbi Tzvi Bider of Chicago. A short procession brought the sefer Torah from the tented area to the kollel.

Divrei chizuk were delivered by Rabbi Yaakov Sussman, Rosh Yeshivah of Beis Hamedrash L’Torah (Skokie Yeshivah), and Rabbi Mordechai Raizman, executive director of operations of the Associated Talmud Torahs, who had lent the kollel his family’s sefer Torah for the past four years.

Mr. Max Stesel, a baal habayis who frequently learns at the kollel, eloquently expressed what this hachnasas sefer Torah represents for the community. “It is worthwhile to meditate on the anguish and shock of the enemies of the Jewish people who thought they completely uprooted Judaism… how much would that shock and anguish multiply should they see Russian Jews not only returning to mitzvah observance, but drinking, with thirst, the waters of Torah, building institutions of Torah study, and now acquiring their own sefer Torah? The contemplation of this complete reversal… greatly enhances our simchah.”

Mr. Stesel explained that as Rosh Kollel, Rabbi Shulman firmly believes that all Jews, even baalei batim who are working during the day, are capable of achieving a high level of Torah learning. Therefore, anyone who enters the kollel to learn must take written tests and respond to oral questions on what they have learned. Rabbi Shulman offers each person advice and encouragement to help him find more time to learn and to identify the optimal approach for learning, as he maintains a deep belief in the exalted and unlimited potential and ability of every Jew to be able to touch the crown of Torah — the Ateres Ami.

Mr. Stesel concluded, “The realization of the kollel’s emergence despite, and in response to, long years of attempts to eradicate Jewry by our enemies is what makes this simchah of the kollel attaining its own sefer Torah unique, and fills our hearts with gratitude to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for bringing us to this day.”