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City synagogue 'thrilled' with return of repaired Torah scroll

'We see the Torah as a living document that enables us to confront the challenges of our everyday lives,' says rabbi at Am Shalom; Re-dedication ceremony being held tonight

The congregation at Am Shalom Synagogue in south-end Barrie is hosting a celebration tonight in honour of the re-dedication of its Torah scrolls.

Rabbi Audrey Kaufman explained the scroll had been in need of significant  and often costly  repairs.

“There are not a lot of scribes who can do this work, and because the borders were closed for nearly three years, we couldn’t do anything about it,” she told BarrieToday.

Kaufman says the scribe was finally able to come from New York in May to take a look in person at what needed to be done.

"He confirmed it needed significant repairs and took it back to New York with him," she said. 

After a few months working on the Torah scroll, the scribe is returning it back to the congregation Friday evening, she said, and the synagogue is hosting a Torah restoration celebration and re-dedication.

The Torah plays a significant role in the Jewish faith, Kaufman explained.

“It has the 613 commandments, which is basically the do's and don’ts of life,” she said, telling BarrieToday the word Torah translates to ‘teaching’. “It’s comprised of the first five books of the bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy  the Old Testament basically. We see the Torah as a living document that enables us to confront the challenges of our everyday lives. For this reason, we refer to the Torah as the Tree of Life because the teachings of the Torah guide us through life.”

The return of the scroll in its improved state is a definite cause for celebration, added the rabbi, which is why they’re hosting the celebratory event tonight (Aug. 26) at the Huronia Road synagogue.

“We are thrilled we have a Torah that has been restored and we know it will be read the way it’s supposed to read and that it will last. It is our tree of life, so to have something like that fixed … we feel so proud that it can be lifted for all to see," Kaufman said. 

The celebration, she added, will begin by dancing the Torah in from the back of the synagogue and include several songs. 

“We will welcome the Torah under the wedding canopy  the chuppah  and we will bring out the other four Torahs that we have in the Arc, (which will) come out to greet this new Torah,” Kaufman said, adding the event will not only include members of the congregation, but also a variety of people from all walks of life, including representatives from various other faith groups, local police and politicians.

“We are just delighted that so many people are coming to a different faith... for this wonderful event. Reformed Judaism is a strong advocate of something called Tikun Olam, which can basically be translated into English as ‘repair of the world’,” Kaufman noted, adding she’s proud of the fact that community leaders from the Muslim and Christian faiths will be joining in to show their support.

“Tikun Olam is basically through education and acceptance of others' religious beliefs that the world will really be a much better place to live. Their attendance (tonight) is a true representation of Tikun Olam," she added. 

The service and celebration is scheduled to take place from 7-8:30 p.m., and will also include a talk by the scribe who performed the Torah restoration, who will share the specifics of the particular Torah repaired, including its age and origin from Eastern Europe.