Video, Photos: Washington Torah to Be First Sefer Torah Written Only in Washington


levi shemtov[Video and photos below.] History was made on June 9th in Washington, DC, with the commencement of writing “The Washington Torah” at the Annual Benefit Event of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, one the national capital’s most prestigious venues.

This Torah scroll is unique in that it is to be written entirely in Washington, DC, something never before attempted. At a moving ceremony, a duly trained sofer, or Jewish ritual scribe, used a specially prepared quill made from a feather to carefully write the first letters of the Torah onto a completely hand-made piece of parchment.

This is the way Torahs have been prepared going back millennia, something not lost on the hundreds of men and women in attendance, including dozens of senior Administration officials, Congressional leaders and Members, ambassadors and senior diplomats, as well as other leading figures in the business, international academic, and political communities.

The elegant event, presented by American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), which is sponsoring the “Washington Torah” initiative, honored US Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Hon. Julián Castro, US House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) – presented the Leadership Award by Senior Democratic Dep. Whip John Lewis (D-GA) – and noted attorney and civic leader, Mr. Max N. Berry, presented with the Special Friend Award by Hon. Anthony A. Williams, former DC Mayor and the event’s General Co-Chair.

Phrases of the Torah are intended to be inscribed in landmarks around the capital relating to the specific words with, for example, “justice, justice shalt thou pursue” to be written at the Supreme Court, phrases of healing at the Department of Health and Human Services, words of war and peace at the Pentagon and US Institute of Peace, and so on.

In addition, as many as 18,000 community members will be invited to participate in the program, with the ability to personally commission anywhere from one letter to entire special sections to be written on their behalf. Organizers also intend to have relevant words and phrases written at other locations around the city, both prestigious as well as reflecting more mundane aspects of everyday life – such as a school, hospital, food market, bank, park, aquarium, residential complex, police station, etc.

“In this way, we can most clearly demonstrate the relevance of living words of the Torah to our contemporary experience”, said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), upon launching the project. “This initiative will help show in sharp relief how the words of the Torah are ultimately timeless.”

As if to reinforce this point, there were several “antique” Torahs and other precious Judaica on display during the evening, originating from places as diverse as India, Yemen and Germany and dating back as far back as the 17th century, provided by Mr. Berry from his vast Judaica collection, one of the largest in the US.

Ambassador of Israel to the US, HE Ron Dermer, greeted the dinner and eloquently compared the thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries around the world working on their mission to dedicated soldiers, bringing the light of Jewish life to the far corners of the world. And the hundreds in attendance took a moment to recognize the family of Lt. Kevin McRae, a DC firefighter who lost his life in the line of duty on May 6. They were joined by Washington DC Chief of Fire and EMS Gregory Dean.

Hamotzie, the blessing over breaking bread was led by leading philanthropist Mr. Simon Falic, Chairman of Duty Free Americas. Birkat Hamazon was led by Mr. Baruch Weiss, a partner in the Washington law firm of Arnold and Porter.

The invocation was delivered by Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, Chairman of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the umbrella organization of the international Chabad-Lubavitch movement – the world’s largest network of Jewish educational and social services, with over 4,000 branches in 49 states and more than 80 countries.


PHOTOS – Click on each photo to magnify:

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{Andy Newscenter}