100-year-old Torah arrives in St. George for Jewish community

ST. GEORGE — A Torah scroll – Judaism’s most important text – made its way to St. George from a synagogue in East Liverpool, Ohio, and a dedication ceremony was held Saturday at the Legacy Club House in honor of its arrival. The antique manuscript was used in services in the East Liverpool community for over three generations in a synagogue built in 1915.

Penny Lindenbaum, president of the Beit Chaverim Jewish Community of Southern Utah, called the dedication ceremony a “once in a lifetime event.”

Torah at Synagogue in East Liverpool, Ohio, date not specified, | Photo courtesy of Debi Berger-Manich, St. George News
Torah at synagogue in East Liverpool, Ohio, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Debi Berger-Manich, St. George News

The dedication of a new Torah is generally celebrated with a festivity, a custom similar to the biblical account of how King David welcomed the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago, Rabbi Helene Ainbinder said.

This event was no different, Ainbinder said, and in accordance with traditions going back thousands of years, this mitzvah – or “good deed” – was followed by a meal.

“We are writing another chapter for this Torah after it served the community in East Liverpool for generations,” Lindenbaum said.

In addition to members of Beit Chaverim, several religious and civic leaders were also present, including Pastor Jimi Kestin from Solomon’s Porch and members of the St. George Interfaith Council, including council president Pastor Joe Doherty and Tim Martin. Washington County was also represented by County Commissioner Zachary Renstrom.

“We have received so much support in this community,” Lindenbaum said, “and the dedication is for the community as a whole.”

Every synagogue has a Torah, Lindenbaum said, and some have more than one. However, for smaller congregations such as theirs, it is rare to have a full-size Torah.

The cost of a new Torah scroll ranges from $27,000 to $41,000. Even previously owned Torahs can cost $10,000 to $20,000 – sometimes more – depending on the condition, its history and care.

To have the opportunity to purchase a full-size Torah was unbelievable, Beit Chaverim’s secretary Ellen Nathan said, but in the end they were able to do it – thanks to serendipity.

Torah being wrapped for transport, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, July 2016 | Photo courtesy of Debi Berger-Manich, St. George News

The journey of the Torah from East Liverpool, Ohio, to St. George actually began with an anonymous donation of $10,000 to Beit Chaverim earlier in the year, Lindenbaum said.

“We had this donation and didn’t really know what to do with it,” she said, “so we just held onto it.”

Months later, a man walked into the Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and explained that his synagogue in East Liverpool was closing its doors after 100 years and that sadly, the building and its furnishings were up for sale, including two full-size Torah scrolls, Debi Berger-Manich said.

Berger-Manich is a resident of Pittsburgh, but she also owns a home in St. George and attends services at Beit Chaverim when she is in the area, she said.

She immediately thought of the congregation in Southern Utah and contacted Lindenbaum, asking if they would be interested in purchasing one of the scrolls.

Seeing the chance of a lifetime, Lindenbaum said yes, and within a few days, Beit Chaverim purchased the scroll.

Garth Jones, craftsman who designed and built the ark to house the Torah, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 2016 | Photo courtesy of Debi Berger-Manich, St. George News

Berger-Manich had the Torah sent from Ohio to the synagogue in Pittsburgh for safe keeping until it could continue on its journey out west.

The Torah did not have an ark, which is a receptacle that holds the scroll and is considered the holiest article in any synagogue after the Torah itself, according to information obtained from the Jewish Virtual Library.

Unable to transport the Torah without an ark, Pittsburgh furniture designer Garth Jones was commissioned to build it. After it was designed and crafted, the scroll was placed in it, Berger-Manich said, and shortly after, it was blessed by a rabbi in Pittsburgh.

The Torah, blessed and housed in the handcrafted ark, was then driven more than 2,000 miles and hand-delivered to Beit Chaverim Jewish Community of Southern Utah, under the care of Lindenbaum, who housed the manuscript until the dedication.

“It was the most relaxing 36-hour drive in my car,” Berger-Manich said. “And what a beautiful journey this Torah has had.”

The Torah

The Torah includes the five books of Moses and 613 commandments. The scroll is hand-written by a pious scribe, known as a sofer, in the original Hebrew, and can take over a year to complete. According to Chabad.org:

Comprising between 62 and 84 sheets of parchment-cured, tanned, scraped and prepared according to exacting Torah law specifications-and containing exactly 304,805 letters, with 42 lines on each page … The sheets of parchment are then sewn together with sinews to form one long scroll

There are additional requirements, Chabad.org, describes:

Only black ink is acceptable in creation of the scroll. Ink of any other color is not considered kosher. Scribes prepare ink using gall-nut juice and gum, using various tints to gain the black color. The scribe writes with a feather pen or reed pen, filling its tip from the ink. Metal pens are not used because they might puncture the parchment, and iron was associated with war and death, which goes against the Torah’s purpose.

Torah scroll presented during dedication ceremony Saturday, St. George, Utah, Aug. 6, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
Torah scroll presented during dedication ceremony, St. George, Utah, Aug. 6, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The letters of a Torah scroll are written in the “Assyrian” script, which is Hebrew calligraphy. The lines must be perfectly straight and even. Numerous laws detail the precise figure of each letter, and if even one letter is missing – or in some instances, merely cracked or smudged – the entire Torah scroll is not kosher, and the scribe starts over. 

Once a Torah scroll is dedicated, it can be in use for decades and can pass from one generation to the next. The Torah dedicated on Saturday had been in use for over three generations and was estimated to be over 100 years old.

Consequently, Torah dedications are rare, and many in and out of the Jewish community can go their entire life without ever seeing one, Lindenbaum said. “And yet here we are.”

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Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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5 Comments

  • .... August 7, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    This was a great day for some members of the community I’m sure this was an absolute joyous occasion for them. I’m very happy for them. people of all religions should be able to live together in peace and harmony. Bless each and everyone of you

  • Matthew Sevald August 7, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    What a wonderful event for St. George. I wish I had known about this earlier so that I could have attended.

    Editor, I believe some of this article has been plagiarized from the following source: http://www.keddem.org/PublicDocs/YKWorkshops_5770/Basic%20Laws%20Regarding%20Torah%20Scrolls.pdf

    I use the definition of plagiarism found on the website for the Indiana University Bloomington’s School of Education (https://www.indiana.edu/~istd/definition.html) which states:

    “3. Plagiarism.
    Plagiarism is defined as presenting someone else’s work, including the work of other students, as one’s own. Any ideas or materials taken from another source for either written or oral use must be fully acknowledged, unless the information is common knowledge. What is considered “common knowledge” may differ from course to course.

    a. A student must not adopt or reproduce ideas, opinions, theories, formulas, graphics, or pictures of another person without acknowledgment.

    b. A student must give credit to the originality of others and acknowledge an indebtedness whenever:

    1. Directly quoting another person’s actual words, whether oral or written;

    2. Using another person’s ideas, opinions, or theories;

    3. Paraphrasing the words, ideas, opinions, or theories of others, whether oral or written;

    4. Borrowing facts, statistics, or illustrative material; or

    5. Offering materials assembled or collected by others in the form of projects or collections without acknowledgment.”

    Specifically, I believe these portions are plagiarized due to word-for-word copying and uncited paraphrasing:

    Article – “Only black ink is acceptable. Ink of any other color is not kosher”
    Source – “Only black ink is acceptable. Ink of any other color is not kosher for a Torah scroll.”

    Article – “Scribes prepare ink using gall-nut juice and gum, using various tints to gain the black color”
    Source – ” Nowadays, scribes prepare ink using gall-nut juice and gum. The black color is achieved by adding various tints.”

    Article – “The scribe writes with a feather pen or reed pen, filling its tip from the ink.”
    Source – “The scribe writes with a feather pen or reed pen, filling its tip from the ink.”

    Article – “Metal pens are not used because they might puncture the parchment, and iron was associated with war and death, which goes against the Torah’s purpose.”
    Source – “An iron pen is not proper because (a) it may puncture the parchment; (b) iron is often used to make weapons of death and destruction, both of which oppose the intent of the Torah. ”

    Article – “The letters of a Torah scroll are written in the “Assyrian” script,”
    Source – “The letters of a Torah scroll are written in the “Assyrian” script;”

    Article – “The lines must be perfectly straight and even. Numerous laws detail the precise figure of each letter, and if even one letter is missing – or in some instances, merely cracked or smudged – the entire Torah scroll is not kosher, and the scribe starts over. ”
    Source – “The lines must be perfectly straight and even. Numerous laws detail the precise figure of each letter, and if even one letter is missing-or, in some instances, merely cracked or smudged-the whole Sefer Torah is not kosher”

    This is not the work of a credible journalist.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic August 8, 2016 at 5:52 am

      Mr. Sevald, perhaps you missed her opening attribution in the section you refer to. Although this reporter’s cited source differs from the one you found, you may also find with each of the expressions you searched that they are found in tens of thousands of articles. These historical facts are common knowledge, the requirements for penning the scroll are so basic you will find these repeatedly stated in the same way. With due respect – for I find no reason to ever plagiarize, respecting fiercely any creator’s due credit for original concepts, formulations, writings – I find no particular error here. I can allow, however, an attribution below the direct quote that is set off in the beginning of that section could add some sourcing clarity. I’m glad to make that so as I set this reply, approving your comment.

      I share your concern about such things and appreciate you took the time to detail it for me.

      ST. GEORGE NEWS
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

      • Matthew Sevald August 8, 2016 at 9:50 am

        Clarifying sourcing is appropriate. Even if common knowledge, it is bad form to lift text word for word without acknowledging it clearly at each example of where it occurs. I appreciate your willingness to increase transparency.

  • ladybugavenger August 8, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    I plagiarized some book reports in school ?

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