Five members of the South Orange/Maplewood Independent Minyan journeyed to Monmouth County on Sunday morning, Dec. 16, to express their gratitude for a special gift.
They attended a ceremony at Congregation Torat El in Oakhurst that celebrated the synagogue’s decision to give away five sifrei Torah — one to the minyan, which actually received the gift before Rosh Hashana.
Torat El has, over the years, gone through mergers with other congregations, which led to its having a surplus of scrolls.
Rabbi Len Levin, a minyan member who spoke at the ceremony, reminded the gathering of the importance of tradition in Jewish life. In today’s high-paced environment, he said, people seem to constantly strive for something new — the book at the top of the best-seller list, or the highest-grossing film of the past weekend.
Meanwhile, he said, the Torah has been around for at least 3,000 years and has been passed down unchanged. “This powerful connection to the past is vitally important because it causes us to recognize that we are part of something much greater than we are,” said Levin. “That is true holiness.”
Accompanying Levin to Oakhurst were minyan leaders Nikki Pusin, president; Lisa Small, vice president; Margie Freeman, board member; and Larry Ozarow, ba’al koreh, Torah reader.
The other scrolls went to recipients both near and far. One was delivered to the Petach Tikvah kehilla by Torat El’s Rabbi Aaron Schonbrun and congregants during the synagogue’s trip to Israel last summer. Two others were scheduled to be transported by the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary to Congregation Masorti Almere, in Weesp, the Netherlands, and to Congregation Masorti in Weiden, Germany.
Rabbi Elie Tuchman, head of school at the Yeshiva at the Jersey Shore in Ocean, received a scroll for YJS at the Dec. 16 ceremony. Two more scrolls may be awarded in the future, while Torat El retains 12 for its own use.
The scrolls ranged from 50 to 100 years old, said Schonbrun, and were inscribed in Israel, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.
Emphasizing that “Torah lies at the center of all that we are and all that we are striving to become,” Schonbrun said, “Our congregation wants to ensure that these Torah scrolls continue to live, serving a purpose rather than existing as decoration.” Thanking both his congregants and the recipients for “allowing us to do this mitzva,” the rabbi conjured an image of fellow Jews “singing, dancing, arguing, studying, and learning from these sifrei Torah for many years to come.”