Torah in the News
The Symbolic Significance of a Torah Scroll
Highlighting the Torah’s Role in Contemporary life
Why a Druze Firefighter Saved a Torah Scroll
While a Nahariya synagogue was engulfed in flames, Druze firefighter Wiam Nevoani ran into the fire to save a Torah scroll. Asked what motivated him to risk his life, Nevoani replied:
“I thought about the site’s importance and high level of sanctity. Based on the report that we’d received, that no one was trapped, I started thinking about how to save the contents of the building – the Torah scrolls, all the prayer books… As we were working, I identified a Torah scroll, and immediately jumped, grabbed it, and brought it outside. As I brought it outside, I felt like I was holding a soul, like I was saving a person, saving a baby.”
Nevoani added, “The warmth emanating from the Torah scroll touched my heart, and for a few seconds I wondered and thought to myself about what is written in the scroll.”
When a Sex Offender Donates a Torah
Earlier this month, a synagogue in the United Kingdom celebrated the donation of a Torah scroll with an event attended by hundreds of congregants. The scroll however was the subject of controversy, having been commissioned and paid for by a convicted sex offender. The donor was recently released from prison after completing a three-year sentence for two counts of sexual assault against a girl under the age of sixteen.
A Chabad UK spokesman claims that the organization had issued a “wide and loud condemnation of the celebrant and the event.” Following sharp criticism from British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and others, the synagogue removed the scroll from its premises.
The outcry began after the victim of abuse spoke out about the celebratory event on Facebook: “A Sefer Torah dedication is a lovely thing, but how can a community of people ignore the fact that the person donating it is a convicted sex offender? Does this not somehow tarnish this mitzvah? I would think so,” she wrote.
A Torah Dedicated to Protect the Iron Dome Unit
The Southern Iron Dome Unit is tasked with the responsibility of shooting down rockets fired from Gaza. This month, soldiers from the unit became the recipients of a new Torah scroll. The Roszler family of North Miami Beach dedicated the Torah in memory of their father/grandfather Rabbi Elimelech Roszler, who was his family’s sole survivor in the wake of the Holocaust.
The dedication was facilitated by the “Warrior Torah Program,” an effort by the International Young Israel Movement (IYIM) to provide Torah scrolls to the soldiers of the Israeli Army, Navy, Air Force & Border Police.
According to IYIM, “Both of [Rabbi Roszler’s] grandsons emphasized his love for the Land of Israel and Torah… As Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech rose from the ashes of the Holocaust and embraced Zionism, so too will this Torah scroll be a symbol of strength and shield Israeli soldiers in times of need.”
Two Torah Scrolls Stolen in Hawaii
Two Torah scrolls were stolen from a Chabad synagogue on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The Torahs have an estimated worth of $50,000 each. One of the scrolls was written in the 1850’s in Lithuania and made it through the Holocaust. The other was purchased in memory of a boy in the community.
“We’re horrified and shocked and saddened that someone would steal something as sacred,” said Chabad director Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky.
Concerned that the scrolls might be smuggled off the island and sold on the black market, the synagogue is offering a $5,000 reward for their safe return. The incident underscores the need for stronger measures to shield Torah scrolls from theft.
Indonesia Just Doubled its Torah Scrolls… Making a Total of Two!
In a country of 260 million people, Indonesia’s Jewish community numbers only in the hundreds and is spread across six islands. The community has two synagogues, one in Jakarta and the other over 3,000 km away in Timika. Until last month, there was just one Torah scroll between them. Rabbi Ben Verbrugge, who has made it his mission to build up the Indonesian Jewish community, had been regularly shuttling the solitary Torah between the two communities.
An Edmonton man by the name of Howie Sniderman heard about this predicament and took it upon himself to solve it. He located and managed to secure a Torah scroll from a now defunct Edmonton congregation. Then in December 2017, amidst joy and celebration, Sniderman packed the scroll in a container designed to hold golf clubs and shipped it off to its new home on the island of Papua, Indonesia.
“We rejoice whenever we hear of Torah scrolls that have been lovingly restored, repatriated or donated from around the world to the communities of Europe devastated by the Shoah,” Sniderman said. “We should all be rejoicing equally at the travels of a Torah scroll halfway around our small Jewish world.”