Yearlong Torah study by 350 Detroiters honors the memory
of beloved Rabbi Avrohom Abba Freedman.
SHELLI LIEBM N DORFMAN
ow do you honor a person Whose entire
adult life was spent inspiring others to
"By studying Torah," said Rabbi Avi
Cohen, director of Partners in Torah at Yeshiva Beth
Yehudah in Southfield.
And that is what 350 members of the Detroit
Jewish community did to show the respect and
admiration they felt for the late Rabbi Avrohom
Almost immediately following the Feb. 2, 2002,
death of Rabbi Freedman, a yearlong Siyum
HaTorah (Completion of the Torah) project began,
with the entire Tanach (the Hebrew Bible), Mishnah
(Torah commentary) and Talmud (Jewish law and
commentaries) divided into portions and studied in
the rabbi's memory.
The division and assignment of hundreds of learn-
ing portions required much organization, planning
and a not-so-small coincidence.
At the time of Rabbi Freedman's death, Yosi
Heber had just moved to Oak Park from Monsey,
N.Y., where he had headed a Torah learning project.
While Heber was wondering if there was a Detroiter
worthy of a Siyum HaTorah honor, Yeshiva Beth
Yehudah teacher Rabbi Yitzchok Grossbard was
inquiring about how to plan such a project in Rabbi
"It happens that my wife is from Monsey," Rabbi
Grossbard said. "So we heard about the program
there. When I called Rabbi Yosef Grossman,
[national director of Siyum HaTorah in North
America], he said, It will be easy for you to make
your plans. You have the coordinator of our siyum
"These are the types of things that happened all
the time to Rabbi Freedman," Rabbi Grossbard said.
"He always wanted to do the right things and
HaShem (God) gave him the right circumstances to
do them. And here was another one of his coinci-
dences, even after he was no longer with us."
was taken, they still chose a part and they still
Heber was thrilled to partner as co-coordinator of
learned," Rabbi Grossbard said.
the project with Rabbi Grossbard, whose family
"Kids who are younger than 10 and men who are
became close with Rabbi Freedman when he was
85 all came together to learn," Rabbi Cohen said.
Rabbi Grossbard's sixth-grade teacher at the Yeshiva.
"Some people chose one or two or three things,
"Even though I was new to Detroit, I already
said Rabbi Grossbard, who himself is learning the
knew about Rabbi Freedman," Heber said. "He was
portion Shemot and a tractate of the Talmud.
famous for his involvement in the unity of the
took shorter portions or even just a part of a
Detroit Jewish community."
section. The idea here was not to just finish the por-
Heber and Rabbi Grossbard then formed a com-
tion, but for as many people as possible to participate
mittee, spoke with area rabbis and found representa-
and to really learn. Every bit. of
tives in various synagogues to _
learning is another merit for
organize their membership. They
Rabbi Freedman's neshamah
sent cards throughout the com-
munity asking for volunteers to
Heber sees the wide range of
choose a Torah portion to learn.
participants — including rabbinic
A database was kept at the
scholars studying daily and work-
Grossbards' home, with reminder
ing professionals who learned for
cards-being mailed to participants
20 minutes on Shabbat after-
as the date they were to complete
noons — as indicative of the
their learning neared.
rabbi's teaching goal.
The Siyum HaTorah concept,
"He was somebody who cut
across all segments of the popula-
by the late Rabbi Yerachmiel
tion," Heber said. "He related to
Boruch Friedman, has expanded
everyone and that's part of what
in the last four years to other
makes the Siyum HaTorah so
cities. Detroit's siyum is the 18th
appropriate for him — the variety
nationwide. The project dedicated
of participants that have come
to the memory of Rabbi
Freedman is Detroit's first
The rabbi's family also recognizes
involvement, with a celebration
Rabbi Avrohom Abba Freedman
the appropriate honor. "The fact
dinner hosted by Yeshiva Beth
that he is the catalyst for a commu-
Yehudah at 6:30 p.m. Sunday,
nity-wide study of the entire Torah and Talmud.
Jan. 19, at the Yeshiva's Beth Jacob School for Girls
involving so many people is a perfect tribute to a man
in Oak Park. It will be held during the week of the
literally spent his lifetime spreading Torah," said
rabbi's first yartzheit (anniversary of death.)
Rabbi Tzali Freedman, Rabbi Freedman's son.
"Rabbi Freedman worked diligently to escape
honor throughout his life," said Gary Torgow, the
Yeshiva president. "Though, even he, I am sure
The response to the call to learn was overwhelming,
would have found pleasure in the knowledge that he
but not unexpected.
was the catalyst for a community-wide Torah
In a short time, there were so many individuals
committed to learning in Rabbi Freedman's memory siyum."
that many portions were assigned to more than one
LEGACY on page 61
person. "Even when people found out everything