300 year-old Torah scroll being restored by pre-school children

This November 10, Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge will continue with the restoration of its 300 year-old Torah by bringing in some new “experts” to help restore its faded letters: pre-schoolers.
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Oct. 29, 2010 - PRLog -- Perhaps letting children ranging from two to five years old write in a 300 year-old scroll seems a bit meshugah at first—after all, they’re still learning fine motor control—but Rabbi Barry Lutz, head rabbi at Northridge's Temple Ahavat Shalom, says their participation is an integral part of the synagogue's Holocaust Torah restoration project. “This Torah belongs to all of us; it is the inheritance of the Jewish people, and the children of our congregation. It is as much their Torah as ours—and perhaps even more so.”

This Torah scroll has a colorful past. Written in the last years of the 17th century in Eastern Europe, it was hidden away in Prague during the Holocaust as one of 1500 Torah scrolls, where it remained until being discovered in the 1960s. In the late 1970s, when these scrolls were made available to congregations around the world, Temple Ahavat Shalom’s Rabbi Solomon Kleinman and Esther and the late Harvey Saritzky decided that their congregation should have one, but not just any one;
Esther went to London to retrieve a scroll with one instruction: “Bring back a scroll that our children can carry.” And so she did. Since then, all of the synagogue’s b’nai mitzvah children have carried that little Torah around their sanctuary. Rabbi Lutz says the children carry it not because it is the smallest, “but for the last children of Kolin, who never had the opportunity to celebrate their own b’nai mitzvah, or to hold and hug this little Torah.”

Over the years the Torah has fallen into a state of disrepair, so this year Rabbi Lutz and the congregation are restoring the Torah. “We owe it to the people of Kolin,” he says, “to 300 years of men and women, boys and girls, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers who cherished this Torah.”

“We are going to make this Torah, once more, as it was intended to be,” said Rabbi Lutz. “A living, vibrant part of a Jewish community.” Each and every member of the community has the chance to write a letter in the Torah, aided by a Torah scribe working with the same tools and dedication as the one who wrote the Torah more than three centuries ago.

When the congregation says “everyone” can have this chance, they mean it. On Wednesday, November 10, the children of TAS’s Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) will be sitting down with the scribe to write letters in the Torah, thereby fulfilling the 613th (and final) commandment of the Torah. There will be a short and meaningful program for students and their parents, including recognition of the pre-school teachers. “Our teachers teach these children the true meaning of Torah every day,” said ECEC Director Debi Chesler, “and we want them to know how vital they are to our community.”

This summer, when the restoration is completed, the congregation will take a special trip to Kolin, where it was written. “We will bear witness for the people of Kolin that the Germans didn’t win, that we still exist,” announced Rabbi Lutz at Rosh Hashanah services in mid-September, “and that this Torah will be a living part of our community for many more generations to come.
Source:Temple Ahavat Shalom
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Tags:Judaism, Torah, Restoration, Holocaust, Czechoslovakia, Northridge, California
Industry:Judaism, Children
Location:California - United States
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