A Torah that is more than 200 years old and suffered severe damage during the Holocaust was unveiled anew at a special dedication Sunday, Dec. 13, after a meticulous restoration.
The event at Congregation Beth Shalom, led by Rabbi Mark Zimmerman, began with a procession of the scroll around the grounds of the Dunwoody synagogue and concluded with a presentation featuring several key players in the yearlong project.
“We have been blessed with the ability to restore it and to make this Torah usable again,” Vera Newman, who chaired the restoration committee, said during an interview. The project has created a lot of ruach (spirit) in the synagogue, she added. “This is a very tight group. They embraced this project with passion.”
The scroll, which dates to at least the late 1700s, was once deemed unrepairable.
“It was in a synagogue that was torched by the Nazis or their sympathizers, and this one was partially burned,” Rabbi Zimmerman said.
Its provenance remains something of a mystery. It probably came from what was then Czechoslovakia, the rabbi said, and it ended up in a London synagogue.
“By the time it got to us, it was in the worst of conditions — soot, grime. There were panels that we
re totally burnt. The irony is we discovered that we had this rare jewel: an old Torah that had been written in a very delicate, special way on a special parchment in a tradition that is really unknown today, that nobody can replicate,” he said. “It languished for decades. We had a very special responsibility to bring this back to life.”
The Torah will not be relegated to the status of an artifact: The congregation plans to incorporate it into its regular activities. “This little Torah has had its journey,” Newman said. “It’s going to be put in the ark, used and loved and cared for.”
Photos by Kevin Madigan