By Carlos E. Medina – Ocala.com
Photos: Doug Engle/ Ocala Star-Banner
The dedication of a new Torah by a Jewish congregation is one of the most special occasions the community can celebrate. The painstakingly handwritten scroll unifies the congregation, which celebrates the addition with dance, song and a feast.
On Sunday, the Chabad Jewish Center of Marion County and The Villages, welcomed their new Torah with the prerequisite celebration.
“It’s a very special time. We consider it as a holiday. We treat it as a holiday,” said Rabbi Yossi Hecht.
The Chabad center was formed six years ago and is located at 3509 Southwest 34th Ave. Circle. The Torah was commissioned more than a year ago and was handwritten using a quill on cowhide by a scribe in Israel. Before, the congregation used a borrowed Torah.
On Sunday, the last few lines of the new Torah were written by several members of the congregation, as is tradition. A scribe, who traveled with the Torah, carefully guided the writers’ hands as any error would ruin the scroll.
Helmut Zack, was among those who applied strokes to the final Hebrew characters.
“I have never seen a proceeding like this. This is my first one. This is what God has given us: The Ten Commandments and the laws. I am really honored to be asked to participate,” said Zack.
The 89-year-old Ocala resident is a Holocaust survivor. On Nov. 9, 1938, Zack’s family was attacked by non-Jewish Germans in coordinated assaults against Jews across Germany which became known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass.
His mother and uncle were murdered and he and his brother were injured. He remembers hearing one of the attackers say, ‘Let’s go back and finish the little one.’
“I said to God, ‘If I survive I will serve you the rest of my life,’” said Zack, who was 14 at the time.
Gene Laskowitz of The Villages also helped scribe the last lines. It also was his first time witnessing a Torah dedication.
“It was an experience of a lifetime. It’s very exciting that we are welcoming this new Torah, which will be around for generations to come,” Laskowitz said.
Another writer was Ken Colen, developer of On Top of The World. The completion ceremony was held at the community’s Circle Square Ranch Town Center. The Torah was dedicated by the Colen family in memory of Sidney Colen and in honor of Ina Colen, Ken’s parents.
“I was a little nervous, but I got through it,” said Colen. “It’s always a great thing to bring a Torah into a community.”
After the last lines were finished. The completed Torah was presented to the congregation and then paraded around the Circle Square center followed by a throng of people singing songs and dancing.