Thursday, September 06, 2007

Jewish center welcomes arrival of Torah

For the 250 or so families involved, it is a time of great happiness at the Chabad of the South Hills.
The Jewish Center for Living and Learning in Mt. Lebanon formally welcomed the addition of its own Torah scroll last evening.
"Purchasing or refurbishing a Torah is considered to be a huge, huge celebration in the Jewish community," said Rabbi Mendel Rosenblum, co-director of the Chabad with his wife, Batya.
Ten days of the High Holidays begin Wednesday with Rosh Hashana and conclude at Yom Kippur.
The synagogue's ark currently has three other scrolls -- the text, written in Hebrew, is literally considered the words of God as given to Moses -- on loan through various long- and short-term arrangements.
"Typically, the first time the [scroll] arrives, it is welcomed to the synagogue, but the timing just didn't work out for us," Rabbi Rosenblum said, explaining that the Chabad of the South Hills received the Torah several months ago.
Last night's festivities included dancing and dinner, as well as an education program for the children.
The cost of obtaining a Torah "is significant," he said. "which ranges anywhere from $20,000 to $70,000.
"But the spiritual achievement is great as well. It's always welcomed into the synagogue, even if it's not the first Torah scroll."
The scroll was purchased from another conservative synagogue, Poale Tzedek in Squirrel Hill.
"One of the members of our congregation grew up in this synagogue and their family is still very active. They were the ones who made the connection for us.
"It was a huge donation [but] the family wants to remain anonymous. They just wanted to see the Torah restored."
The scroll, he said, "was not fit for use when we purchased it," so they sent it to a scribe in New York who restores Torahs.
The process took about five months; all of the characters are handwritten on parchment and those handling the scrolls must be painstakingly careful due to age and wear.
When the restoration was complete, the entire Torah was run through a computer scanner to check for accuracy.
"We found two letters missing entirely," Rabbi Rosenblum said. "So in a sense, this is the first time it's really fit for use. It's really a cause for celebration in our community."
The Chabad of the South Hills began in the Rosenblum's home almost nine years ago, but is currently renting property from the Bower Hill Swim Club. A new center on McFarland Road will be dedicated this winter.
"There's a lot of symbolism here, between the holidays and our moving to a new place," Rabbi Rosenblum said.

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