It all started with a phone call. Last Erev Pesach the Kol Yaakov Torah Center received word that the Sefer Torah the yeshiva had been borrowing for a number of years had to be returned to its owners. Yehuda Dovid Kaplan, staying with the Rosh Yeshiva for Yom Tov, offered to donate a new Sefer Torah as a replacement. Yehuda Dovid and his uncle, Mr. Thomas Kaplan, generous supporters of Kol Yaakov and its outreach division, Horizons, decided to dedicate this sefer to the memory of their mother and grandmother, Mrs. Lillian Jean Kaplan, A”H.
Within a few weeks a new sefer was procured with the assistance of sofer Rabbi Melech Michaels, an alumnus of Kol Yaakov, and a Hachnosas Sefer Torah was quickly planned. Rabbi and Mrs. Yehoshua Krohn graciously offered their home on Meadow Lane for the K’sivas Ha’osios. Talmidim, Rebbeim, alumni and supporters of Kol Yaakov gathered to complete the sefer on the Sunday before Shavuos. The yeshiva was honored by the participation in the k’sivas ha’osios of Ha- Gaon HaRav Reuven Feinstein, Rosh HaYeshiva of Tiferes Yerushalayim, Staten Island and HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Faivelson Rosh HaYeshiva of Bais Medrash L’Torah in Monsey, shlit”a. With Rabbi Yehuda Tropper, the Rosh Yeshiva’s father, completing the last of the osios, the Sefer Torah was exuberantly escorted to the Kol Yaakov Torah Center along Saddle River Road and on to West Maple Avenue. Though the noonday sun was out in force the participants escorted the sefer accompanied by unwavering dancing and singing to music provided from the back of a pick-up truck by Nochi and Yosef Krohn.
After the Sefer Torah was brought to its new home, the over 100 assembled guests, sat down to a seudas mitzvah and were inspired by the amazing story as told by Yehuda Dovid Kaplan. Also known as Guma Aguiar, Yehuda Dovid, though born a Jew, was raised as an Evangelical Christian. Through the dedicated teaching and inspiration of Rabbi Tropper and Kol Yaakov, Yehuda Dovid has since returned to the path of yiddishkeit and has made a stunning transformation in recent months. Part of his desire in dedicating a new Sefer Torah for the yeshiva was as a means of reaching out to his estranged family who were still practicing Christians. This endeavor surpassed his greatest expectations: In the span of the few shorts weeks between Pesach, when the Sefer Torah was purchased, and the week of Shavuos, when the sefer was completed (and paralleling the sefira period, when we mark the ascent of our forebears from the 49 Sha'arei Tum'ah of Mitzrayim to the spiritual heights of Har Sinai), Yehuda Dovid’s family had ceased practicing Christianity and had begun their return to their true heritage.