A New Torah is Born

Rabbi Levi Selwyn uses a quill to fill in the first letter in the new Torah. Selwyn is a sofer with Sofer on Site, based in Miami Florida.

Rabbi Levi Selwyn uses a quill to fill in the first letter in the new Torah. Selwyn is a sofer with Sofer on Site, based in Miami Florida.

Last week I had the rare opportunity to document a special event for the Jewish Chronicle. Beth El Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in the South Hills of Pittsburgh dedicated a new Torah. For anyone unfamiliar with Judaism, the Torah contains the first five books of the Bible and is written on a large parchment scroll. Aside from the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Torahs are probably the most sacred objects in Judaism.

The Torah dedication was funded by the tips collected from the Synagogue’s bingo games.  Members of the congregation got to help fill in some of the first letters written on the parchment. Since most congregations keep Torahs that are decades old, it is rare to get a brand new one and having the opportunity to fill in a letter is a once in a lifetime opportunity that few Jews get to experience.

While I personally am not religious, I respect the Torah as a culturally important item in the Jewish tradition. I also think the creative undertaking of Torah writing is truly remarkable: all true Torahs are hand written using processes passed down over thousands of years. In an age when nearly every aspect of our lives has transferred into into the digital realm it is truly amazing to see the commitment to the written word more than 500 years after Johannes Gutenberg introduced the printing press.

You can read the full article at the Jewish Chronicle’s website.

Many of Beth El Congregation's older Torah scrolls were gathered on a table prior to the ceremony. The scrolls were held by bingo workers during the dedication.

Many of Beth El Congregation’s older Torah scrolls were gathered on a table prior to the ceremony. The scrolls were held by bingo workers during the dedication.

A young girl writes Hebrew letters with a quill at an activities table during the dedication ceremony.

A young girl writes Hebrew letters with a quill at an activities table during the dedication ceremony.

Children from Beth El Congregation families stand near the podium as the Torah dedication ceremony begins.

Children from Beth El Congregation families stand near the podium as the Torah dedication ceremony begins.

Bette Balk, of Mt. Lebanon, smiles as fellow congregants fill in part of the new Torah. Balk, along with her husband Sam, and other workers involved with Beth El's bingo tournaments held Torahs throughout the ceremony.

Bette Balk, of Mt. Lebanon, smiles as fellow congregants fill in part of the new Torah. Balk, along with her husband Sam, and other workers involved with Beth El’s bingo tournaments held Torahs throughout the ceremony.

One of the volunteers with Beth El's bingo fundraiser holds one of the congregation's Torah's during the dedication ceremony.

One of the volunteers with Beth El’s bingo fundraiser holds one of the congregation’s Torah’s during the dedication ceremony.

Sam Balk, of Mt. Lebanon PA, Holds one of Beth El's older Torah scrolls during the dedication ceremony.

Sam Balk, of Mt. Lebanon PA, Holds one of Beth El’s older Torah scrolls during the dedication ceremony.

Jay Feuer (center), of Mt. Lebanon, helps Rabbi Levi Selwyn (right) fill in a letter in the new Torah, alongside his family Barbara (left), Molly (center-left) and Adam (center right). Feuer is the co-chair of Beth El's bingo events, which raised money to fund the writing of the new Torah.

Jay Feuer (center), of Mt. Lebanon, helps Rabbi Levi Selwyn (right) fill in a letter in the new Torah, alongside his family Barbara (left), Molly (center-left) and Adam (center right). Feuer is the co-chair of Beth El’s bingo events, which raised money to fund the writing of the new Torah.

Congregant Fern Schwartz, of Mt. Lebanon, fills in a letter with Rabbi Selwyn. Schwartz is the co-chair of Beth El's bingo events, which raised money to fund the writing of the new Torah.

Congregant Fern Schwartz, of Mt. Lebanon, fills in a letter with Rabbi Selwyn. Schwartz is the co-chair of Beth El’s bingo events, which raised money to fund the writing of the new Torah.

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