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Phoenix Jews Dedicate Challah and Other Good Deeds to Educator Battling Illness

Posted Tuesday, Apr 17 2012 7:19pm in Chabad News

By Tamar Runyan - Chabad.org/news

(Chabad.org) The Jewish community in Phoenix, Arizona, is doing everything it can for Sashie Levertov, a local educator battling leukemia after a February diagnosis. Many women are reciting portions of Psalms in the merit of her recovery, baking challah and lighting Shabbat candles, while children at Levertov’s Aleph Bet Preschool and Kindergarten have made quilts and offered prayers using the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary’s Hebrew name, Sasha bat Bluma.

One community member, though, sparked another idea: Commission a new Torah scroll for Chabad-Lubavitch of Arizona and dedicate the campaign in Levertov’s merit.

Tzvia Haliliyan got the idea from other communities that have united to do the same, such as the Chabad-Lubavitch run Hebrew Academy Community School in Margate, Fla., that is currently raising money for the writing of a Torah scroll in the merit of Danielle Chaya bat Aviva, an 18-year-old alumnus with a brain tumor.

Levertov, 28, also is a mother of four young children, runs a Bat Mitzvah club for girls and a challah baking club called Loaves of Love which she began in memory of Rivka Holtzberg, who was murdered alongside her husband and four of their guests at their Mumbai Chabad House in 2008. Because she was in the hospital during Loaves of Love’s recent annual kick-off event, participants inscribed paper flowers with the good deeds they plan to do in Levertov’s merit.

“Everybody cares about her, everybody wants to do something,” said Halilyan. “This [Torah scroll] is also something that everybody can participate in.”

In all, Halilyan is trying to raise $35,000 to cover the cost of the Torah. With a community of some 100,000 Jews, Halilyan is optimistic that she will raise enough by encouraging everyone to participate by at least donating $1 to symbolically buy one of the Torah scroll’s hundreds of thousands of Hebrew letters.

Halilyan, 50, explained that she wanted to do something for Levertov because of the love and acceptance she has always received by the Chabad House.

Halilyan and her family moved to the Arizona capital 13 years ago on the advice of a rabbi in Israel who suggested the move to improve her health. But when they arrived, they went from synagogue to synagogue looking for the right fit for them.

“Everyone said, ‘You’re Israeli. Go back to Israel,’ ” recalled Halilyan. “And then we went to Chabad. They were the only ones who accepted us as we were.”

The Halilyans became a part of the community shepherded by Rabbi Zalman and Tziporah Levertov – Sashie Levertov’s in-laws – who came to Phoenix in 1977.

“From then on, they became family,” said Halilyan, “They were very welcoming and warm. They don’t judge you; they respect you.”

So when Levertov was diagnosed with leukemia, Haliliyan wanted to do everything in her power to help her and her family.

“I could be Sashie’s Mom,” she said of her age. “I put myself in her mother’s shoes.”

Halilyan’s oldest daughter, who is now married with children, moved back to Phoenix and works at the Aleph Bet school, which is now being run by Levertov’s husband, Rabbi Moshe Levertov, since her hospitalization.

“As a mother, I want to reach up to G-d so that He should hear us,” said Halilyan. “As women we have the power like [the biblical] matriarch Rachel” who tradition says cries out to G-d to help her descendants.

In addition to Halilyan, dozens of community members have been asking the Levertovs what they can do to help in any way. Levertov’s Facebook page, as well as her husband’s, is similarly flooded with blessings from friends.

“Everyone is offering to help,” said Moshe Levertov, who asks everyone he speaks with to dedicate a good deed in the merit of his wife.

“It’s very encouraging,” he said of the Torah campaign and the various other community initiatives. “It’s heartwarming to know that at the end of the day, we’re all one.”

For more information about “Sashie’s Torah,” click here.

Phoenix Jews Dedicate Challah and Other Good Deeds to Educator Battling Illness

Last updated:

Tuesday, Apr 17 2012 7:21pm