To Celebrate Restoration of Two Torah Scrolls
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a photo gallery of the event
Two Torah scrolls, kept hidden through the years of communist
rule in Russia, will be restored to use and to their new
home, on Sunday, October 24. A gala procession will escort
the precious Torah scrolls through the Russian community
of Brighton Beach to the Hebrew Alliance F.R.E.E. (Friends
of Refugees of Eastern Europe) Synagogue at 2915 Brighton
6 Street. F.R.E.E. is America’s largest religious organization
devoted to aiding Russian Jews.
The parade will begin at the permanent menorah at the
corner of Coney Island Avenue and Brighton Beach Avenue.
Borough President Marty Markowitz and
other prominent members of Brooklyn’s Jewish community
will have the privilege of carrying the Torah under an
ornate bridal canopy.
Welcoming a Torah scroll is always celebrated in the
manner of a wedding, giving honor to the Torah as to a
bride. The Torah will be accompanied with torches, song,
Russian dances, banners and live music.
The international award-winning boys choir, “M Generation,”
For thousands of Russian Jews in Brighton Beach, the
open demonstration of love for the Torah is a triumph
over the tyranny of religious persecution suffered under
The smaller of the two Torah scrolls, about 150 years
old, is being donated by the Dovidov
family in honor of their father, Abraham Dovidov,
the sexton of a synagogue in Riga. When the Nazis invaded,
he fled to Russia with the Torah scroll, taking it out
only for prayer services on the Shabbat and then hiding
After the war, he returned to Latvia which remained under
Soviet domination. He continued his practice of taking
out the Torah scroll only for Shabbat services, and hiding
it during the week. When he passed away, his children
brought the Torah with them to the United States.
The Schuster family donated the larger
scroll, which traveled a similar dangerous path through
post-Holocaust Europe before arriving here.
Rabbi Hershel Okunov, vice president
of F.R.E.E. reports that over $10,000 was raised to repair
the scrolls. Every letter on the handwritten parchment
has to be perfect in order to be used in the synagogue.
When the parade arrives at the Hebrew Alliance - F.R.E.E.
Synagogue, the five Torah scrolls already in the ark will
be carried out to greet the new arrivals. During the Jewish
holidays this year, nearly two thousand worshipers heard
the Torah read from these scrolls, ---testimony to the
revival of Jewish life among many disaffected Russian
Jews whom F.R.E.E. has helped return to their traditions.
Rabbi Mayer Okunov, Chairman of FREE,
reflects that before communism, "Russia was the big
center of Judaism, America, much less so.” This was reversed
with communism, he says, when American Jews took up “the
traditions and kept Judaism alive.”
F.R.E.E. - Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe
was founded in 1969 at the directive of the Lubavitcher
Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of blessed
memory, as the Chabad Lubavitch Russian Immigrant Program,
Led by a group of young "partisans" and fellow
Since then, F.R.E.E.'s unique approach has found a path
to the hearts and souls of tens of thousands of Russian-speaking
Jewish families, by providing free bar mitzvahs, summer
camps, kosher food, Jewish education and circumcisions
on boys and men who were forbidden to have them in the
F.R.E.E.'s outstanding success has become the worldwide
model for aid organizations serving Russian Jewish families
around the globe.
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