By Leslie Palma-Simoncek
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Last year, Rabbi Nachman Segal and his wife, Chaya, carried their four children and two Torahs from a fire that would destroy the building housing their home and the Chabad Israeli Center in New Springville.
Yesterday, the rabbi had the honor of introducing a new Torah to the two saved from the flames.
Mordechai and Ravital Ganon donated the scroll that contains the first five books of the Bible to the synagogue in its new New Springville location.
“Hashem saved us from the big fire and now we’re here,” the rabbi said as members and other supporters welcomed the new addition in the spacious sanctuary of the new synagogue.
The $1 million project to renovate the building is nearly complete, and the rabbi, his wife and their expanded family — a fifth child, a son, was born eight months ago — will live upstairs temporarily.
But plans for the future include converting the second-floor space to a yeshiva “so everyone can come to learn,” Rabbi Segal said.
Ganon, a founding member of the five-year-old center who moved to Staten Island from Israel six years ago, said he donated the Torah “for my parents and my wife’s parents, and for the community. We need on the holy days a third Torah.”
The ceremony that saw the Torah carried more than a half mile from the Ganon’s home to the Brunswick Street house of worship was so exuberant that sometimes the chuppah shielding the scroll had trouble keeping up with the Torah itself.
“It’s a big thing being part of this,” said Avi Rosenfeld. “A big thing. For every Jew.”
With an invitation from Chabad Lubavitch of Staten Island and Rabbi Moshe Katzman, the center opened as an outreach to the many Israelis moving to the Island. Services were exclusively in Hebrew and the rabbi’s English was limited.
Now Rabbi Segal is fluent in English and delivers his sermons in his new language to accommodate the many American Jews who have become part of the synagogue.
“We’re small but everyone feels very comfortable,” he said. “Everyone feels like they can open the fridge.”
Ofer Noga, whose family welcomed the Segals into their home after the fire, noted that the new scroll arrived just in time for an important holiday.
The harvest festival of Sukkot begins tonight and concludes Oct. 23 with Simchat Torah, which celebrates the completion of a cycle of Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle.
“This is a big mitzvah,” Mrs. Ganon said yesterday as she videotaped the proceedings. “We’ve been working on this three years but, thank God, today it succeeds.”
– Staten Island Advance