A Holy Gift
Sefer Torah — God's words — is an unusual gift.
So when one congregation extends this gift to
another, the dynamic is something special. Many
congregations worldwide lack a Torah they can call their own.
Like Ohel HaChidusch, a Berlin chavurah begun in 2007.
The 50-member congregation, affiliated with the Renewal
movement, celebrates Shabbat and
holidays. It stresses learning and spiri-
tuality. The Berlin Jewish community
includes many broken families and
many families outside mainstream
Ohel HaChidusch serves four gen-
erations. The first Ohel HaChidusch
Congress described its mission: "A
form of Judaism that is not only beau-
tiful, established and traditional, but
also an active and renewing force in
our lives, in the lives of our Jewish
communities as well as in the societies in which we live."
Emotions peaked at Shir Tikvah in Troy following Havdalah
services on Dec. 13. Ohel HaChidusch Cantor Jalda Rebling
traveled from Germany to accept the gift of a spare Torah
from Shir Tikvah, a Reform-Renewal congregation of 340
families. Rebling slowly left the sanctuary with the Torah as
Shir Tikvah congregants sang, "T'filat HaDerech" — "May you
be blessed as you go on your way..."
That moment during an evening of
high points for the 25-year-old Troy
congregation reinforced what Jews
already know. As wonderful as it is to
receive, it's even better to give.
century Eastern European congregation holds real promise.
It sure does.
That's why Holocaust survivors from Shir Tikvah pre-
sented the Torah to Cantor Rebling. The 12-pound Sefer
Torah requires some restoration but is readable. Its odyssey
will be complete as it returns to its Eastern European roots
and is used for study and for reading. It will be housed in a
portable Aron Hakodesh custom built by Anna Adam, Ohel
HaChidusch's board chair and an artist.
A Wider Reach
A few days after Shir Tikvah's momentous evening,
Sleutelberg reflected on the sacred gift to Ohel HaChidusch,
part of Europe's growing Renewal network.
"Now that there's a resurgent Jewish community in Eastern
Europe, even in Germany's capital, it is fitting that we return a
Torah there in a clarion call proclaiming that Am Yisrael Chai,
the People of Israel lives',' Sleutelberg told the IN.
Congregations with multiple Torahs but limited uses for them
should reconsider. Is taking them out and displaying them dur-
ing Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur enough? Wouldn't God be better
served by making a seldom-used Torah more available?
Cantor Rebling wrote in her application that "a Torah that is
not used for her purpose is a very sad one." A Torah is a living
document of the Jewish people. So it's not far-fetched to think
a Torah has feelings, at least in a metaphysical sense.
It's sad that scrolls are unwit-
tingly saved when so many con-
gregations are wanting. This need
is easily addressed as Shir Tikvah
▪ discovered. Rabbi Sleutelberg
joyfully offers his counsel to any
congregation wishing to donate a
Power Of Giving
It was an evening of high points for
Shir Tikvah — a new Holy Ark of
HaChidusch, Hebrew for Tent
the Covenant, a new Eternal Light,
is still in its formative
a new bimah and the newly scribed
Blumenstein Family Torah. But giv-
to buy a Torah.
ing away a Torah was the highest
point of all.
What began as a test project was
so successful that other congrega-
I loved how she put it in seeking to clinch the gift: "If we
tions with a Torah to spare should take heed in what Shir
be the happy community who gets it, we will, as soon
Tikvah did for a small group of German Jews without their
buy our own Sefer Torah and offer the Shir Tikvah
chavurah in need of a Torah. We would ask
Shir Tikvah sent "requests to apply" around the globe after
them to do the same."
deciding it could part with its Beth Jacob Torah once its newly
In that short paragraph, the cantor beautifully captured
scribed Torah arrived. Troy congregants also have a Holocaust
the Shir Tikvah Torah would become a real hativkah — a
Torah within its new Aron Hakodesh.
— for renewal in a city trying valiantly to shed its
Nine applicants from America, Israel, Norway, Peru and
It's certainly great to see a new ohel, a new tent,
Germany came forth for the spare Torah, which Shir Tikvah
where Nazi Germany leaders maneuvered to
acquired in 1991 when Beth Jacob of Pontiac closed. All nine
congregations were deserving of the 200-year-old Eastern
after the end of World War II, Shir Tikvah
European Torah. So choosing became hard, said Shin Tikvah's
example of the enduring vigor of
Rabbi Arnie Sleutelberg.
connection it inspired with Ohel
The Berlin congregation won out became it most matched
the spirit of our people — once
Shir Tikvah's profile: egalitarian, vibrant, music oriented as
well as welcoming to intermarried families, Jews seeking to
reclaim their heritage and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-
Congregations thinking about donating a Sefer Torah can con-
tact Rabbi Sleutelberg at email@example.com . Related
Shir Tikvah also felt giving a Torah that served an Eastern
European synagogue destroyed in the Holocaust to a 21st-
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