BY GEOFF FOX – Tribune
It took a year — and more than 304,805 letters, each written specifically in black ink — for Rabbi Yochanan Kline, a scribe from near Miami, to complete work on a Torah scroll dedicated to the University of South Florida on Sunday.
A Torah is “the most sacred script in Judaism,” Rabbi Pinny Backman, executive director of the Chabad at USF, said Sunday afternoon, as a long line of people waited to sit with Kline as he added the final letters to the scroll.
“It’s all written with a feather pen on parchment paper, like it was 3,000 years ago, so nothing has changed,” Backman said. “We’re giving people the opportunity to ‘write’ their own letter in the scroll so that it’s a community scroll.”
The goal, Backman said, is to “take Jewish life at USF to another level.”
The university’s new Torah was celebrated during a three-hour program Sunday that included a brief talk by Daniel Sragowicz, who donated the scroll in the name of Sami and Charlotte Rohr OBM, the grandparents of his wife, Diana Sragowicz.
Held at USF’s Gibbons Alumni Center for Chabad, a Jewish outreach, educational and social service organization, the event included a celebration with live music, dancing and a dinner buffet.
Daniel Sragowicz recalled Sami Rohr as someone who “said what he meant and meant what he said.”
“He treated me like his own grandchild,” Sragowicz said. “I learned most of my biggest life lessons from him.”
Before writing a scroll, a scribe must learn 4,000 rules, many of them stringent. In the scroll, for example, no letter may touch another letter and if one letter is incorrect, the entire Torah — which covers the five books of Moses — is not considered kosher.
Bentzion Chanowitz, a pharmacist in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, acted as “matchmaker” for the Torah and USF. Chanowitz is affiliated with Beis Yisroel Torah Gemach, which restores old or used Torahs.
“They read out of it in a melodious way,” Chanowitz said. “They’ll read a certain section each week and a certain section on holidays. It opens up a variety of things to do.
“It’s providing a service to the community, at large. A lot of people dorm here (at USF), and now Jewish students won’t have to go off-campus” to access a Torah.
Backman said he applied for a Torah about a year ago, but forgot about it.
His efforts eventually led Backman to a conversation with Chanowitz.
The rest, he said, is history to be celebrated by generations of USF students to come. He characterized the new scroll as “the Rolls Royce of Torahs.”
“Having our own handwritten Torah is an epic event for the USF community,” he said.