After three months of being painstakingly refurbished, a new community Torah Scroll was FedEx-ed here from Israel.
About 100 members of the Upstate Jewish community welcomed the Torah Scroll on May 24.
They danced, prayed and crowned the Torah Scroll before a half-mile procession to its new home at Chabad of the Upstate, a Jewish education and enrichment organization in Greer.
Yet the journey there began long before — more than 70 years ago in Russia.
Rabbi Adam Goodfriend, director of Chabad of the Upstate, was traveling I-85 when he received a call from Dr. Byron Wilkenfeld of Greenville.
The men met while Wilkenfeld was in a nursing home. Wilkenfeld had a seizure from a brain tumor on Dec. 1. He spent four months in intensive care, followed by three months of rehabilitation at a nursing home, he said in a phone interview.
Wilkenfeld asked Goodfriend to find a Jewish congregation in need of a Torah Scroll. That was before Wilkenfeld learned Chabad of the Upstate had no Torah Scroll.
Chabad of the Upstate was established about five years ago. “We’re an education organization, but we also do (worship) services,” Goodfriend said. The group continues to grow and offers activities three to four times a month.
The acquisition of the Torah Scroll was “momentous” for the congregation and made possible by the financial support of Wilkenfeld and his family.
Goodfriend smiles as he remembers the phone call in which he learned the organization would receive its first Torah Scroll.
“It is hard to imagine an object in Judaism more poignant and central that a Torah Scroll,” Goodfriend said in a news release.
Goodfriend said the new community Torah Scroll is estimated to be at least 70 years old. It was written in Russia before World War II and sent to Israel after the war.
Goodfriend said it’s unique because Torah Scrolls that old are rarely in good enough condition to be restored.
Also special about the Torah Scroll, Goodfriend said, is that it “tells the story of a chapter in Jewish life.”
Many American Jews trace their ancestry to Russia and Eastern Europe, he said. “Our story is a story of wandering from place to place … and in the last hundred years, the Jewish nation has come to America.”
The subdivisions of suburban America are where many Jewish people have settled, Goodfriend said. “And our Torah also tells that story.”
The new community Torah Scroll was dedicated to Wilkenfeld in appreciation of his recovery.
Wilkenfeld said he will probably remain in a wheelchair but has recovered and hopes to return soon to psychiatry practice. He was among those who welcomed the Torah Scroll.
His emotions ran “the whole gamut” at the event. He had lost his oldest brother that weekend, but family was able to attend, including his children, brother and sister.
Wilkenfeld experienced “some sadness with a whole lot of excitement and pleasure.”
The Torah Scroll, Wilkenfeld said, “represents how to live life and how to get the most out of life… (it’s) the blueprint for creation.”
Within that blueprint is how the world and people are supposed to function at their optimal level, he explained.
“On its most basic level, the Torah teaches us how to live a happy, proper, fulfilling life.”
The arrival of a new Torah Scroll, he said, is “an opportunity for us to rededicate ourselves to those precepts, and it’s like an infusion of energy and inspiration.”
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