An Extraordinary TorahGAMBIER, Ohio (October 18, 2007) Kenyon and its Jewish community will receive an extraordinary gift this month with the arrival of a Torah scroll that disappeared during the Holocaust but was recently recovered and restored.
The hand-lettered parchment scroll, estimated to be 175 years old, will be dedicated on Friday, October 26, with religious dignitaries from around Ohio participating. The group will take the Torah down Middle Path in a procession culminating with a ceremony at Hillel House.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, some members of the campus community will have the rare opportunity to assist in the final restoration process, inking Hebrew letters onto the scroll with a quill. They will actually fill in letters outlined by Rabbi Menachem Youlus, the scribe who restored the scroll and who will be on hand to speak about his work and supervise the lettering.
Youlus created Save a Torah, a Maryland-based nonprofit organization that has recovered and repaired nearly 600 Torahs, most of them found in Eastern Europe, where they once belonged to Jewish communities that were eradicated by the Nazis during World War II. Kenyon's Torah is from an area near Lvov, once now part of Ukraine. It was donated to the College by Michael and Deborah Salzberg of Bethesda, Maryland, whose daughter, Anna, is a junior at Kenyon.
The Torah, comprising the Five Books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy), is Judaism's holiest text. Observant Jews study the Torah throughout their lives, seeing it as a source of wisdom and a guide to a moral life.
It took four and a half months to restore Kenyon's Torah scroll, according to Youlus. A Torah contains nearly 305,000 Hebrew letters, and about two-thirds of the letters in this scroll were damaged and had to be corrected or entirely rewritten.
Youlus, who began tracking down lost Torahs about twenty years ago, estimates that thousands of scrolls survived the Nazis' devastation of European Jewry. He has traveled throughout Europe, as well as in the Middle East and Africa, following up on reports of Torahs--and, in the process, running risks that have earned him nicknames like "the Jewish 007 " and "the Indiana Jones of rabbis."