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Jewish Community Receives Its First Torah

By Andrew Good – Sun Post News

It’s believed to be San Clemente’s first Torah as well.

Chabad of San Clemente gets a new Torah. As part of the ceremony the newly completed torah is taken on a short parade down the streets of San Clemente while different individuals take turns carrying it. Shlomo Rabinowitz plays the accordian as Menachen Nemes carries the torah. Nemes, who feels that this is, “a great honor,” flew out from New York just for this occasion. Next to him is Gershom Benavraham, from Camp Pendelton, who helps to carry the Chupah over the torah. Photos by Dominique Riley, For the Sun Post News

San Clemente, CA — With the last few letters of Deuteronomy inscribed, a cheer went up – “Mazeltov!” – and a local Jewish congregation received their first Torah Sunday.

More in the Extended Article!

It’s believed to be a first for San Clemente as well, which has never had a synagogue in town. For Chabad San Clemente, a congregation that began only three years ago, it was a milestone event attended by about 100 people. They met at the Best Western Casablanca Inn on South El Camino Real, where Chabad holds its services.

Having a copy of the Torah, Judaism’s primary holy text and known to Christians as the Old Testament, is seen as a major step in the growth of a congregation.

“This is a firm grounding of the community in San Clemente,” said Dr. Salem Claude, a Chabad member. “It means we’ve arrived as a community. That we have roots – not only individual roots, but that the community as a whole has roots in San Clemente.”

A Torah is written on parchment, usually made from the skin of a kosher animal, said congregation leader Rabbi Mendel Slavin. The thread is made from the animal’s veins, and the whole parchment is rolled up into two scrolls. It’s considered sacred, and can never be thrown out. After hundreds of years, when a Torah is beyond repair, it’s buried.

“Right now, the skin of that animal (made into parchment) is holy, and can never be discarded,” Slavin said. “That’s our mission, to take mundane things and turn them into holiness.”

Composed of approximately 600,000 letters (representing the 600,000 Jewish souls first created by God), the Torah can take up to a year to write. The work is done by a professional scribe and is an expensive undertaking: Chabad’s Torah, made in Israel, cost $23,000. A silver crown placed atop it cost several thousand. Slavin estimated the entire cost, plus the celebration, cost $30,000.

Torahs alone can range in price from several thousand to $40,000, Slavin said.

The purchase was initiated when member Rochelle Kaplan was attending services and decided the congregation needed its own Torah. Previously, they had borrowed a very old copy from a congregation in Laguna Beach.

She talked it over with her husband, who suggested buying one and making it a surprise – a lovely idea until they looked some up online.

“It was overwhelming,” Kaplan said. “We went online and I said, ‘Wow, I don’t know what to get,” Kaplan said. “There’s so many different ones and different prices, so I called the rabbi, and he said we’ll do it together.”

She helped purchase the Torah to honor her parents, which is considered a mitzvah – an act of great kindness – in Jewish culture.

Once someone initiates the purchase of a Torah, the congregation funds it in a piecemeal fashion. One person makes a donation for the crown; another for the ark, a ceremonial container for the Torah.

Many purchase pieces of text, Slavin said. The Torah’s passages correspond to the Jewish calendar, and some members bought the month they were married in, or the week they turned 13 and first read the Torah. Others just wanted to chip in, and bought phrases with their name in them, or even individual letters.

When the Torah was finished, the congregation marched down the street, symbolically bringing it into the community. Its first reading will be Wednesday, May 23 at 6 p.m. at the Best Western Casablanca Inn, 1601 N. El Camino Real. For more information, call 949-489-0723 or email info@jewishsc.com.


As part of the ceremony the torah is completed by a scribe, Aaron Shaffier from Los Angeles (right), as members of the community, Natalie and Marty Stein (left) along with their 6 year-old son Evan Stein, take part in the completion process. They do so by touching pen to parchment, making their mark for the scribe to start writing. The Chabad’s Rabbi, Mendel Slavin (center) looks on. Photos by Dominique Riley, For the Sun Post News

8 Comments

  • 1. Shloimy wrote:

    Wow Mendel and Tzippy! Great work! May you go from strength to strength with growth and happiness!

  • 3. Mazal Tov! wrote:

    The person holding the Torah is not Menachem Nemes it is Rabbi Gurevitch!!!

  • 4. MAZEL TOV!!! wrote:

    Yes, the person who wrote the article made a mistake. The Rabbi holding the Torah is Rabbi Gurevitch, although Menachem Nemes was there. It was a magnificent, beautiful event, and everyone there was deeply moved. Yasher Koach, and may you only continue with such great things! Mazel Tov to Rabbi Mendel and Tzippy Slavin! Much Nachas!! And also, another Mazel tov to the extended family – Rabbi & Mrs. Greenwald, and Michoel & Leah Slavin and all the extended family on the amazing success of the Slavins. May you have much Nachas!

  • 5. correction wrote:

    Correction: In the photo is Rabbi E. Gurevitch of Chabad of Laguna.

  • 6. notice wrote:

    what on earth!?
    the guy holding the torah is so not menachem nemes!
    it is rabbi meilach gurevitch-shliach to laguna beach, caifornia

  • 7. Another Tziporah cousin wrote:

    Way to go Tzippy and Mendel. You should continue to have mch success in your work

  • 8. and yet another tziporah wrote:

    mazel tov!! go from strength to strenghth!! we’re shepping nachas. tzip and meyer

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