Relatives honor Efraim Gordon’s memory with Sefer Torah

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Efraim Gordon’s family wants him to be remembered not as a victim of a senseless crime, but as a kind, loving man who enjoyed studying the Torah.

On July 10, over a year after his death, his community and loved ones are honoring him by completing a Sefer Torah in his name.


Efraim Gordon
Efraim Gordon (Courtesy of Rabbi Dovid Reyder)

Born in Jerusalem in 1990, Gordon had a secular upbringing but became more observant and interested in Judaism after his service in the Israel Defense Forces. He frequently studied the Torah and eventually self-identified as a ba’al teshuva (a secularly raised Jew who becomes more religious later in life).

“He always maintained that same adoration for his friends, same respect, same inclusiveness,” Gordon’s cousin, Rabbi Dovid Reyder, said of his religious awakening. “It was felt by all of them; they didn’t feel that he looked down on them for being less observant.”

Gordon died on May 3, 2021. He had traveled to Baltimore for a wedding and was attacked outside of where he was staying. He was shot mere moments after texting his cousin to tell him he’d arrived safely. Gordon was the victim of a random act of violence. Since then, three people have been charged in connection to the case; two are awaiting trial, and one pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in early May of this year.

Rather than continuing to mourn his death, though, his relatives and community have contributed toward the creation of a Sefer Torah in his name to honor his memory.

“It’s like having an everlasting remembrance and existence of his memory to incorporate into our lives,” said Sara Marshall, Reyder’s sister and another of Gordon’s cousins. “He would have wanted to keep studying it and teaching it to others, but he didn’t have the opportunity to do that.”

A Baltimore-area scribe was hired to start writing the Torah last year, a process that takes a long time and painstaking craftsmanship. Creating a Torah is a taxing and expensive process, serving as the scribe’s salary for the year — but their hard work will come to fruition soon.

The community and Gordon’s relatives plan for the Torah to be completed on July 10, at the exact spot where he was killed.

“We wanted to take this blood-soaked soil and fill it with the life of the Torah,” Marshall said of the particular spot chosen for its completion.

Once the Torah is completed, attendees will be escorted through the streets by the Baltimore Police Department, eventually ending at a reception to celebrate Gordon’s life.

Reyder, Marshall and the rest of Gordon’s relatives are trying to gather the people who helped them the most in the wake of this tragedy so they can celebrate together.

They also want the event to be an inclusive one. “All of Baltimore is invited to honor his legacy,” Marshall said.

The Torah itself will be donated to the Chabad of UMBC, where it will be used for Shabbat services and for the holidays. Reyder said that Gordon spent the morning of the last day of his life there, and that the Torah representing his life finding a home there will help give them some closure.

“We’re writing it because we believe that anything that happens in our world has a more spiritual meaning to it, and we wanted to have this … merit,” Marshall said. “It’s a Sefer Torah for safer streets. We want an opportunity for all the Jewish people of Baltimore to participate … and to preserve Efraim’s memory in that way.”

Gordon’s family is continuing to accept donations on their website. People can contribute to have parts of the Sefer Torah written in their honor, and to help his family during their time of need.

“It would mean a lot to Efraim … and to our family if you took part,” Reyder said. “We won’t allow his death to be in vain. We want to take something positive from what happened.”

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