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Recycling Torah Scrolls
STRN founder Moshe Burt (R) with Gabbai Micha'el Picard at Torah dedication in Shi-rat HaYam, Gush Katif
by Judy Lash Balint
Arutz 7
March 24, 2005

Like many successful projects, Moshe Burt's Sefer Torah Recycling Network (STRN) was born by accident.

In December 1994, the Philadelphia native went looking for his beshert at a Jewish singles event in Brooklyn. Instead of finding his match there, Burt became a matchmaker between a Torah scroll and a small Jewish community in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem when a couple he met at the event told him that Bat Ayin was looking for a Torah and could not afford the $25-30,000 cost of a new one.

Back in Philadelphia, Burt, 56, discovered that his rabbi, Mordechai Young of Congregation Young Israel of Wynnefield, had a Torah in storage waiting for a home. With the pro bono help of a sofer in Brooklyn, Burt had the Torah restored to perfect condition and five months after his initial meeting, the grateful community of Bat Ayin was using the scroll.

To his surprise, Burt, an observant Jew, learned that many small and new communities in Israel had no sefer Torah. "It is said that one is truly connected to a place only when that place is a Makom Torah (a place of Torah) and that's accomplished through ownership of a Sefer Torah," Burt says, as he explains why he conceived of the idea of starting the STRN. The organization now has tax-deductible status in the U.S, and Canada and is run by Burt on a volunteer basis from his home in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

Burt feels a particularly urgent need to help communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza establish themselves as Makom Torah, and over the past 10 years his Sefer Torah Recycling Network has matched eight YESHA communities with donated Torah scrolls.

Burt has received strong endorsements for the STRN from a number of prominent rabbis including Dov Brisman and Shmuel Kamenetsky of Philadelphia and Zev Leff, Menachem Shapira and Chaim Soloveichik in Israel.

On Shushan Purim, March 27, Burt and his supporters will dedicate their second Torah donated to a community in the Gush Katif region, slated for destruction by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan this summer.

Last July, the tiny beachfront village of Shirat Hayam in Gush Katif received a Sephardic style Torah scroll for its 15 families. The newest Torah will be dedicated in the Chasdei Shimrit community center at the nearby town of Neve Dekalim. The Center was named after Shimrit Bonfeld, a young resident who died of a rare blood disease several years ago. Her father, David Bonfeld, is a postman in Gush Katif who has been active with youth in Neve Dekalim. The Torah scroll was donated by a group of donors from Beit Shemesh to show their support for the threatened communities in the south.

Future STRN plans call for the restoration of a Torah donated by a Baltimore family, that will find a new home next July in The Rachel's Children Reclamation Foundation Beit Midrash (adjacent to Rachel's Tomb) and another scroll that will be used by a new Yeshiva High School, Knesset Yisrael when it opens in Beit Shemesh in September.

As word of his unique project spreads, Burt receives constant requests from communities without a Torah. "I'm constantly on the lookout for additional used Sifrei Torah," he says.

"I'm currently searching for Sifrei Torah to be placed in Yishuv Adura, near Hebron, as well as two locations in Ramat Beit Shemesh and Russian-speaking synagogues in Beitar Illit and in Ma'alei Adumim. There's a third Gush Katif town, Kerem Atzmona, that's in need of a Torah too." Burt explains that Adura suffered a deadly terror attack in May 2002, when five residents were killed in their homes as terrorists dressed as Israeli soldiers broke into the village.
"The people of Adura seek a Sefer Torah to memorialize those who lost their lives in that attack," Burt says.

Another benefit of the project is that it helps provide employment for Israeli Torah scribes, Burt adds.

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