The surviving members of a family ripped apart by a suicide bomber’s blast extracted some measure of consolation from the tragedy by dedicating a Torah to a synagogue and community center in Sweden.

For the more than 100 people who paraded the holy scroll through the streets of Gothenburg and on to the city’s Chabad-Lubavitch center, the celebration reflected a mix of emotions. On the one hand, it brought back the sorrow and pain experienced eight years ago by the Schijveschuurder family when a Palestinian terrorist targeted a popular Jerusalem pizzeria.

But on the other, the dedication ceremony, a first for many residents, was an inspirational public display of Jewish life.

“I never experienced anything like that in my life,” remarked Rebecca Isacsson, 28, a native of northern Sweden. “For the first time, I felt like everyone came together with their families. It was not something we see every day here.”

Ariella Lindstrom, who helped Chabad House directors Rabbi Alexander and Leah Namdar organize the event, described it as bittersweet.

“Personally, it was very, very emotional,” said Lindstrom, who was in Israel when the Aug. 9, 2001 bombing shocked the country and the world. “Of course, [the memory] hurts. But when you meet the people [affected by it], you see that their pain is real and tremendous.”

Mordechai Refael, 43, and Tzirel Schijveschuurder, 41, and three of their eight children, Rayah Shulamit, 14, Avraham Yitzchak Yedidya, 4, and Chemda Bracha, 2, were waiting in line to order lunch during a visit to Jerusalem when the suicide bomber struck. He killed 10 other people, and injured 130 more, including the couple’s two other daughters, Chaya, 8, and Leah, 11.

Their three older sons, Ben-Zion, Meir and Shvuel, had to identify the bodies.

Just after the attack, Chaya Schijveschuurder told reporters that she believed that the Messiah would soon come and that she would be reunited with her parents and siblings.

Eight years later, she stood with her brothers, her sister, and her nephews at the Torah dedication to reaffirm that belief: “We await the coming of moshiach, when this Torah will return with the Jews of Sweden to the Land of Israel.”

The brothers joined community members in Gothenburg, Sweden, for rounds of dancing with the Torah scroll.
The brothers joined community members in Gothenburg, Sweden, for rounds of dancing with the Torah scroll.

Perfect Faith

For his part, Alexander Namdar said that the Chabad House was “humbled and grateful” for being able to perpetuate the memory of the Schijveschuurders. Members of the family chose the center after spending a Shabbat there over the summer and learning that it didn’t have a Torah scroll of its own.

In its dedicatory message stenciled on the Torah’s cover, the family wrote in Hebrew: “In perfect faith in the Creator of the world and in His ways.”

“This Torah scroll and its inscription express an incredible level of belief in G‑d: perfect faith, despite tragedy,” said the rabbi. “Our hope is that this Torah and the inspiration of this event will be a catalyst for strengthening faith.”

“A Torah symbolizes the eternity of the Jewish people,” echoed Rabbi Menachem Kutner, director of Chabad’s Terror Victims Project and an acquaintance of the family. “Dedicating a Torah scroll is one of the most suitable ways for the Schijveschuurders to eternalize the memory of their loved ones.”