On an overcast July day just over a year ago, thousands of Jewish community members in Melbourne, Australia, bid farewell to a rabbi and scholar known for his heart of gold. On Sunday, just a year and some change after that day, the community gathered once again to remember Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, this time to dedicate a Torah scroll in his memory.

But despite the festive nature of the occasion, there was still an undercurrent of loss for a community whom Groner shepherded for more than 50 years at the behest of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

“Rabbi Groner had the unique ability to make everyone he met feel they had a personal relationship with him,” remarked Merv Adler, an executive in a local printing repair company. “He had a genuine love of all people.”

When Groner, who was born in the British Mandate of Palestine in 1925 and later immigrated to the United States, was sent to Melbourne in the 1950s, his original intention was to stay for at least three years. He and his wife, Devorah Groner, ended up calling the city home for five decades. In that time, he built a school system serving some 1,500 students.

“He was a man who cared for everyone,” said Rabbi Sholom Mendel Kluwgant of the local Yeshiva Centre at this week’s Torah dedication. “He had everyone’s best interests at heart.”

Community members embarked on commissioning a Torah scroll in memory of Groner seven months ago. According to Kluwgant, money was raised for the effort by individuals and families “buying” all 54 of the Torah’s portions. Many voluntarily “increased the amount two-fold,” said the rabbi.

At the dedication, which featured a grand parade, school-age children brought coins to purchase lines in the holy scroll.

Dassy Henenberg, a 20-year-old student in Melbourne, said that a Torah dedication was a fitting way to honor Groner’s legacy.

“He had a powerful, towering presence. He was completely focused on achieving communal goals, but at the same time he was full of love and softness for all,” she said. “This special [scroll] will remind everyone that Rabbi Groner was truly at one with the Torah. This is how we should continue to honor his legacy, through [increased] Torah observance.”

Following the parade through neighborhood streets that ended at the Yeshivah Shul, the dancing continued inside. After the Torah was placed in a holy ark in the sanctuary, the crowd moved to a nearby hall where speakers talked about the significance of the day.

Rabbi Gidon Fox of Pretoria Hebrew Congregation emphasized Groner’s self-sacrifice in moving to Australia so many years ago.

“The Torah begins with the Hebrew letter bet and ends with the letter lamed, spelling out the word lev, or heart,” explained Fox. “Rabbi Groner embodied this thought. He was someone who put his heart in everything.”

The program concluded with a video of Groner speaking at a Torah dedication a few years ago. Having just seen such recent footage of a man they admired, some guests were very emotional as they left.

“Rabbi Groner’s stature was very big, but when you approached him, his hand was so warm, you shook it,” recalled Rabbi Reuven Cooper, the 29-year-old co-director of Chabad Youth in nearby Malvern. “It felt like he was your best friend.

“Above everything, he was a community man,” continued Cooper. “He was there for everybody and wanted everyone to be involved.”