Janis Jacobs called it “perfect”: the 613th Jewish mitzva commands an individual to “write” a Torah scroll, and it was on 6/13 (June 13) that members of Congregation Shir Ami of Bucks County completed an effort to create a new Torah scroll for the Newtown synagogue.
Jacobs, who just finished her two-year term as president of the almost 800-family Reform congregation, had wanted to leave a lasting legacy of her presidency.
So she and synagogue executive director Hilary Leboff came up with the “Inscribing our Legacy” campaign that over a 10-month period involved young and old in writing a Torah scroll. Rabbi Elliot Strom loved the idea, calling such an act “the greatest mitzva of all” that will increase “the stock of wisdom, kindness, and menschlichkeit in the world.”
The project was announced on Rosh Hashana, was officially kicked off in November, and culminated June 13 when sofer, or scribe, Moshe Druin of Miami completed the final letters of the text. Along the way, families, religious school students, teens, and seniors participated in a series of programs that brought together congregants “for a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Shir Ami members and preschool families were all given the opportunity to “write” a letter at no cost. People made donations for a line or chapter to honor or commemorate a person or event.
“We gave every one of our families the opportunity to be part of this mitzva,” said Legacy chair Rori Levine. “Every month through April we had another program. We had families sign up on-line for inscription opportunities. We had a program where our sofer spoke to the religious school and preschool…and our lifelong learning classes.”
In the end, there was an “overwhelming” response, with close to half the congregation participating, added Levine. Many told her that it was a “phenomenal experience” and “were surprised at how moving it was.”
The new scroll will fill an empty ark in a chapel used by students in the religious school and early childhood center and by members of the synagogue’s youth groups.
Congregants expressed their pride by signing a large “Torah tapestry.”
“Little kids wrote, ‘Torah rocks,’ while their parents were a little more descriptive,” said Levine. “On that last day a lot of us marched up to the bima holding our tapestry. We wrapped it around the Torah, literally wrapping it in our blessings. Then we marched to the chapel where we placed it in our ark.”