New Torah being dedicated for Westminster synagogue

Chabad of Northwest honors holocaust survivors with hand-written tome

Posted 9/10/18

A year ago, Rabbi Nissan Mangel, a renowned philosopher and Holocaust survivor, put the first marks on a new scroll of parchment — the first step in dedicating a new Colorado Torah. It was during a …

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New Torah being dedicated for Westminster synagogue

Chabad of Northwest honors holocaust survivors with hand-written tome

Posted

A year ago, Rabbi Nissan Mangel, a renowned philosopher and Holocaust survivor, put the first marks on a new scroll of parchment — the first step in dedicating a new Colorado Torah.

It was during a Holocaust memorial at the Arvada Center and now, a year and 300,000 characters later, the holy book is nearly finished.

The Torah, destined to used at Westminster Chabad of Northwest Metro Denver, will be completed and dedicated at a special ceremony at 2 p.m. Sept. 16 at Westminster’s College Hill Library, on the western edge of Front Range Community College’s 112th Avenue campus.

For Rabbi Benjy Brackman, director of Chabad of NW Metro Denver, it’s been special.

“It’s not something we do often,” he said. “I don’t expect we’ll do it again for seven, eight years.”

The Torah is the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. For the Westminster synagogue, the books have been written by hand by scribes in Israel.

“The parchment comes in sections of about four feet by 18 inches, and there are maybe 100 feet of parchment there,” he said. “This is an art. It’s calligraphy, so in addition to writing those letters it has to be checked so it takes some amount of time.”

A few marks have been left finished and will be completed at the Sept. 16 ceremony by members of the synagogue, survivors of the Holocaust themselves.

Synagogues dedicate new Torahs every once in a while. They are generally donated by members of the congregation and usually to honor family members or people from the community.

“It’s quite an expense, a $30,000 gift,” he said. “People will do and dedicate it to the memory of their grandparents or a family member. It’s an honor to have a Torah dedicated to you.”

Brackman was approached by Maureen and Stuart Philips 2017, who offered to donate a new Torah scroll to the Westminster synagogue.

At the same time, Brackman and members of the synagogue noted some anti-Semitic graffiti on a nearby bridge. The graffiti was removed quickly, but Brackman said he began talking with Westminster officials about creating a holocaust memorial somewhere.

“We have not concluded that this was anti-semitism directed at the Jewish community,” he said. “I do not feel targeted. Let me be very clear about that.”

It’s quite likely that the vandal even knew there was a synagogue in the area, he said.

“I don’t go around the City of Westminster and fear anti-semitism,” he said. “However, it’s clear the person was ignorant, to be generous, of the meaning and import of what he wrote. And it was even more ignorant in the fact that he did it close to a synagogue.”

Education became part of the purpose for the new Torah, dedicated to survivors of the Holocaust.

“Dedicating a Torah scroll would serve as a better and more meaningful memorial for those who perished in the Holocaust, then one carved in stone,” Brackman wrote in a press release. This would be the first such memorial in NW Metro Denver, he said.

Once the final letters have been written in the Torah, it will be raised for all to see, wrapped in a special velvet cover and a silver crown and paraded down to the Chabad synagogue, a short walk down 112th Avenue from the library.

The community is invited to attend this event but should RSVP at www.HolocaustMemorialTorah.com or by contacting Brackman at (720) 984-5805.

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