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Torah Academy Wins Big With Annual Auction

Updated on March 14, 2015

The Preliminaries

Over 200 people filled the social hall of Young Israel of Brookline, Massachusetts, 62 Green Street, on the evening of Sunday, December 14, 2014 to eat, mingle, be entertained, and try their hands at winning a plethora of prizes—contributing tens of thousands of dollars to a local cause in the process—at one of the Boston Jewish community’s most celebrated fundraising events, Torah Academy’s annual Chinese auction.

The synagogue’s doors opened for the event at 6:30 p.m. A lavish buffet running down the center of the social hall awaited attendees, featuring cold cuts and an array of salads, fresh fruit, and chocolate-laden goodies. Rabbi Shmuel Ochs, menahel of Torah Academy, remarked, “The great thing about the auction is, the parents do everything…. There’s no caterer; it’s all the parents. The Auction Committee put thousands of hours into” putting the event together, said Ochs.

Early birds feasted and schmoozed in clusters at the social hall’s small round tables, while a few attendees browsed the prizes displayed along the walls and deposited their raffle tickets into each item’s silver-wrapped drawing box. The fifty prizes included Judaica and Jewish books; electronics; kitchenware, tableware, and other housewares; toys, games, and children’s books; and many other items, topped off by airfare for two to Israel.

Drawings for smaller “instant prizes” and for extra prize tickets began around 7:00 and were held every few minutes. Master of ceremonies Chaim Schwartz, a Torah Academy parent, kept things lively with humorous commentary. Announcing the start of the main event, Schwartz asked attendees, “Please gravitate toward your seats, and by ‘gravitate’ I mean ‘rush.’”

The smorgasbord at the Torah Academy Auction

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The Main Event

The Torah Academy Boys Choir kicked off the official program at 8:00, conducted by Rabbi Eli Pichey and accompanied on keyboard by Yitzchak Sadetzky, who came to perform at the auction despite illness. The choir gave rousing renditions of three pieces: “Lo Matza Ha-Shem Keli,” “Chesof Zeroa Kodshekha” (from the Chanukah classic “Maoz Tzur”), and “Ha-Shem Lo Yivneh Bayis.” Each boy took a turn in a trio at the front microphones singing a verse, while the choir sang the choruses as a whole.

After a 20-minute intermission, the main auction began at 8:50, lasting about half an hour. In his introduction, Rabbi Ochs related the event and the school’s mission of Jewish education to the upcoming holiday of Chanukah, celebrating the Jews’ successful resistance to the ancient Greeks’ efforts to turn them away from Torah. “The symbol of Yavan, of the Greek Empire, is choshekh—darkness. The only way to get rid of darkness—weapons won’t work, sticks and stones won’t work … is light. This is the light that shines every morning” when Torah Academy opens, he affirmed.

The evening’s biggest winner was Elana Kahn, who took four prizes: a 12-inch shaitel from New Waves by Tova, a $500 Amazon gift card, a KitchenAid five-quart mixer, and the special Split-the-Pot drawing, which divides the value in cash of all tickets entered for the drawing between the winner and Torah Academy. According to emcee Schwartz, Kahn and the school each received $655. Another special drawing, the Jackpot, entitled the winner to a ticket for every prize drawing.

Emcee Chaim Schwartz draws a winning ticket, assisted by Rebbetzin Michal Blumberg

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Background and Reactions

Dr. Izzy Perle, of Brookline, called the 2014 auction “a wonderful event. The food and displays were stunning…. The auction went methodically and according to plan…. It was one of the highlights of the year.” Perle enjoys the auction’s open seating and time to roam and socialize. “It’s better than a formal dinner, where you only sit at your own table. I can talk to people I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to talk to.”

Perle, 61, served as Torah Academy’s president from 1990 to 2001—in fact, the school began holding the annual auction during Perle’s presidency, though on a much smaller scale. “We held it Sharzer Hall” in the basement of Congregation Beth Pinchas across Williston Street in Brookline from the school, Perle recalls. “We used to sell trinkets. Now, it’s a significant fundraiser for the school. We’ve come a long way.”

Eighteen of the fifty regular auction prizes, and most of the instant prizes, were donated by businesses or individuals. Torah Academy solicited sponsorships for other prizes from the community ahead of the auction; 17 of the regular auction prizes were sponsored. Lori Kirby and her husband George, of Newton, contributed $300 that sponsored a Fisher Price Happy Family dollhouse. Kirby said that although her own children did not attend Torah Academy, she often donates to the school because “I believe Torah Judaism education is really important for young children. There isn’t enough education in the Jewish community—only a fraction of the Jewish youth are being reached…. [Torah Academy’s] style of Judaism is very precious and needs to be preserved.”

Torah Academy is an Orthodox Jewish K-8 day school of over 200 students. Torah Academy is coeducational, and teaches boys and girls in separate classes from second grade up. It was founded in 1981 by the late Bostoner Rebbe, Grand Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz, zt”l, and his son the current Bostoner Rebbe of Har Nof in Jerusalem, Grand Rabbi Meir Horowitz, shlit”a.

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