More than 150 people filled the Ashland Community Center on June 19 to witness a Jewish scribe slowly ink the last 20 of the Hebrew letters on the Torah scroll with a turkey feather.
Every letter of a Torah scroll is exact just like it was received by Moses on Mount Sinai. It is artistically handwritten by a scribe and takes a full year to complete. Rabbi Avi Zwiebel, director of the Chabad Center of Southern Oregon, describes it as the most sacred article in Jewish life.
“We are so thankful for the generosity of Daniel and Diane Sragowicz who sponsored this new Torah Scroll for our Ashland community,” says Rabbi Zwiebel. “It is such an honor and privileged to receive this gift and to be able to share this unique occasion with the entire community.”
The crowd broke into a Mazal Tov song as the last letter of the Torah scroll was completed on behalf of all those gathered and for the entire Jewish community. It was an inspiring and emotional time. One mixed with joy and tears. For many, it is a once in a lifetime experience witnessing something like this.
“It was a very special occasion, one that has touched my heart and will forever remain deep within me”, says Dee Bass.
“Being part of an event, where so many Jews from different walks of life have come together to celebrate Jewish unity, makes my heart sing” says Faigy Zwiebel, co-director of the Chabad Center “The unifying force generated by a project like this is truly awesome”.
Chabad of Ashland went from fewer than 10 people – “wandering Jews,” as Zwiebel puts it – getting together at the rabbi’s home 12 years ago to purchase a beautiful space where more than 100 families now gather for many community events.
“After we bought the building, it felt like a Torah scroll would be the next step to complete its soul,” Rabbi Zwiebel said. “We have a robust, ever-growing Jewish community here, and this is another milestone in our growth.”
The new Torah scroll is the soul of the new physical building.
“This Torah scroll is a very appropriate addition to the Ashland Jewish community, as it represents the unbroken chain of Jewish tradition and survival,” says the rabbi. “The ancient wisdom contained in this scroll is the essence of our identity as Jews, and possessing our own Torah scroll is cause for great pride and celebration.”
The crowd celebrated the completion with a very lively procession down Winburn Way and through Lithia Park to the Ashland Plaza with the Torah being held under a wedding canopy.
Rabbis from California and Oregon and community members danced, sang and clapped all the way down to the Ashland Plaza led by torches and music.
“Who would’ve thought we would be dancing in these streets with the Torah?” exclaimed Zweibel after the Torah procession.
Picture courtesy of Jyl Klein