In November 2008 Linda Coppleson of West Orange, NJ joined two other scribes on the Women's Torah Project. "I'm so honored and humbled to be accepted into the Women's Torah Project," said Linda, who commenced writing in December 2008. Linda started with the book of BaMidbar (Numbers). "It is particularly meaningful for me to start with Sefer Bamidbar. The narrative of this fourth book of the Torah is about the journey of the Israelites to Eretz Yisrael, and in a way, my journey to become a soferet is about to take me to my “promised land” — to the opportunity to write a Sefer Torah. It's terribly exciting for me," said Linda, who has been writing, illuminating and painting ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts) for many years.
Learning to scribe a Torah (or mezuzah or tefillin) requires learning a separate, and extensive, set of rules and skills, known as sofrut. "When I sought a teacher," said Linda, "I found Dr. Eric Ray z'l who not only agreed to teach a woman, but who also gave me the confidence to embark on this endeavor. With him, I learned the basics of sofrut; forming the letters, studying the texts of the sofer, cutting the quill, learning recipes for ink and about the different kinds of parchment. When he passed away, I met another pioneer in this field, Jen Taylor Friedman, and we formed a Hevruta (study group) to continue to study the sofer's texts and to support each other in (the very male) world of sofrut.
"To actually participate in mitzvot is to me what being Jewish is all about," Linda continued. "To layn Torah, not just to hear the parsha, to read Megillah, not just hear it, to lead the congregation in tefillah, not just respond, to actually write Torah, not just read it — these for me are the ways to perform mitzvot. I remember the first time I layned Torah in shul. It really was one of those “ah-ha” moments, that made me think, “So this is what it's all about!” At that moment, I had never felt more connected to my Jewishness, my Jewish past and heritage, and to God. Writing my first mezuzah and completing my first Megillat Esther were moments like that, too.
Sofrut has become, in a sense, the way I enter into my Jewish soul. Writing becomes a holy act, not just because of the holiness of the texts, but because it is an act through which I reach out to God and reach into myself. This is what makes sofrut different from calligraphy. Calligraphy may give me pleasure, but sofrut gives me pleasure and inner awareness."
Linda has taught Tanach, Rabbinics and Jewish History at Solomon Schechter Day School in West Orange, New Jersey for 17 years and she and her husband are members of Summit Jewish Community Center. She writes, illuminates and paints ketubot; creates artwork to mark life-cycle events, and has been commissioned by numerous synagogues to create commemorative plaques.
Linda grew up in Newark, NJ, graduated from Brandeis University with a BA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, received an MA from New York University (School of Education) in the department of Hebrew Culture and Education. She spent her junior year of college at Tel Aviv University, Israel, where she met her husband, Victor Coppleson, to whom she has been married for 33 years. "He is my best friend and has been a tireless supporter and cheerleader in my journey to become a soferet. We have two children, Micah, 29, and Yael, 26."