When the shofar sounded, members of the 12 tribes gathered under a colorful banner and ventured forth en masse — up the driveway at Temple Ner Tamid. The Bloomfield synagogue’s congregation-wide “Trek through Torah” brought the sacred text to life on May 20 as the culmination of a year of learning.
Virtually every part of the synagogue building and grounds was transformed into the site of a different episode from the Torah, and congregants, assigned to different tribes, were led by dozens of costumed members playing the parts of Moses, Miriam, Aaron, even God.
Participants decorated panels depicting the creation of the world and sat with Abraham on the floor of his tent, sharing pita and hummus as they heard the patriarch’s amazing story. The “Israelites” went on to become slaves in Egypt, forced by evil taskmasters to build pyramids out of blocks. They crossed the Red Sea (shimmering cloth panels), sang and danced by the water with Miriam, and stood at Mount Sinai (playground climbing apparatus) to receive the Ten Commandments. The day closed as it opened, with a blast of the shofar, this time signaling delivery of the farewell address by Moses (bearing a remarkable resemblance to Ner Tamid’s Rabbi Steven Kushner), in which he reviewed the biblical happenings and concluded with the recitation of the Sh’ma.
Over 200 people participated in the Trek, with 75 volunteers working as artists, actors, cooks, designers, and builders.
Religious school director Iris Schwartz, who developed the program, said that the Ner Tamid families “learned what life was like for those whose courage, faith, and conviction brought Judaism to life. We weren’t only telling the stories of the past — we became the story ourselves.”