Gathered on the steps of the Chabad House of Ann Arbor, Michigan, members of the Jewish community welcomed a new Torah scroll with music, dancing and a parade on Sunday.
The new Torah, a scroll containing the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures, comes all the way from a synagogue in Tel Aviv, Israel and will join two scrolls previously acquired by the Chabad House. The scrolls are read from every Saturday and during special occasions.
About 150 people marched from the corner of Monroe Street and State Street to the front steps of the Chabad House with the new Torah under a chuppah leading the way. Driving alongside the march, a Model-T decorated with flowers played traditional music.
Esther Goldstein said the traditional welcoming of the Torah is similar to a Jewish wedding and is a very important event.
“I’m very excited to welcome the Unity Torah,” Goldstein said. “I’ve been here 38 years and the last time we had a celebration like this was 25 years ago. It is an important event because it brings us together.”
Once back at the Chabad house, Rabbi Aharon Goldstein welcomed everyone and told the story of how the new Torah was acquired.
“This Torah is from the head synagogue of Tel Aviv,” he said. “They welcomed a smaller Torah and needed to find a new home for the one that we welcome today. This is a connection between us and Israel.”
Verses from the Torah about welcoming the Torah were read by various community members before bringing it inside.
A dance with the three Torah scrolls, known as a hakafot, was performed before placing them in the ark.
“Many synagogues have more than one Torah,” Rabbi Alter Goldstein said. “Different sections are read from the scroll and you have to physically roll it to get to each part so it is much more convenient to have more than one.”
He said the new Torah scroll is unique because it comes all the way from Israel, and the community has a chance to come together by dedicating a word, verse, section or book in the Torah.
“It’s a community event,” Rabbi Alter said. “We are calling this Torah the Unity Torah because people are able to purchase a portion, which gives individuals the opportunity to connect with Jewish people in Ann Arbor.”
Money raised through the sale of dedications goes toward the $28,000 spent to purchase the Unity Torah and to build a new ark to house all three Torah scrolls.
So far, the Chabad House of Ann Arbor has raised three-quarters of the money needed to complete the overall project. Rabbi Alter said he hopes donations and dedications made Sunday will complete their goal so a new ark can be built soon.