(Chabad.org) Rabbi Mendel Silberstein, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Larchmont and Mamaroneck recounts the story of his center’s wandering Torah scroll. It began more than 70 years ago in Romania and spanned three continents, finally ending up in New York’s Westchester County, where locals and Jewish community leaders welcomed the historic scroll to America’s shores for the second time.
His wife’s grandfather was a well-known rabbi in Romania who during World War II travelled with his family from their small town to Bucharest. They eventually made it to Long Beach, N.Y., in 1946; and in the early 1970s, when he moved to Brooklyn’s Borough Park section, he sent the Torah he had guarded most of his life to a new synagogue in Jerusalem. The gift came with a stipulation: He or his family could reclaim the scroll whenever they needed it.
Fast forward several more decades. Chana Silberstein’s brother,Moshe Rubin, had been researching for a book about his grandfather when he came across the document that outlined the Torah scroll’s ownership. Two years ago, Rubin went to the Jerusalem synagogue, discovered the scroll, and took it to a religious scribe who confirmed its origins.
“This is the story of Jewish communities everywhere,” says Rubin. “Torah is an eternal thing, and not just a physical entity.”
For the Silbersteins, who opened their Chabad House in 2006 and have been borrowing Torahs since beginning weekly Sabbath prayer services in 2008, the find couldn’t have come at a better time. On Yom Kippur in 2010, they launched a restoration project to bring the scroll to their synagogue.
“Participants were able to dedicate a letter in memory of a loved one,” said Silberstein. “Many people got involved in the project.”
Finally, on June 10, hundreds of community members gathered at Mamaroneck High School to celebrate the fully-restored Torah scroll. Police blocked the main road for a parade through the streets.
“This Torah’s journey is a very moving story,” said Jim Nadel, who donated a crown to top the scroll in memory of his mother. “The entire experience really hit home for me.”
Carol Siegel was similarly moved.
Said the five-year member: “This is a piece of history we are experiencing.”