hidden under Soviet communism is the star of a Brooklyn parade
October 24, 2004
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By VERENA DOBNIK
A 150-year-old Torah, hidden for a half-century in the
former Soviet Union, was paraded through New York's streets
Sunday on its way to its new home at a Brooklyn synagogue.
in the procession of hundreds of former Soviet Jews sang
English, Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian songs as the foot-high
scroll, covered by a Jewish bridal canopy, was taken to
the Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe Synagogue.
"We kept it in a closet, behind the clothes. And
every week, my father carried it to the Sabbath service,
then back home to hide it," said Senya Dovidov, 68,
a one-time shoe factory worker in Latvia who gave the
Torah to the synagogue.
Dovidov said his father, Abraham, was a leader of the
Jewish community in the Latvian capital of Riga during
the 1930s, and fled to Russia with the scroll when the
Nazis invaded during World War II.
He returned to live under a Soviet regime "that
made it dangerous to show that you were a practicing Jew,"
said Hershel Okunov, a Ukrainian-born rabbi at the synagogue.
Dovidov, who speaks only Russian, Latvian and Yiddish,
brought the scroll with him when he came to the United
States in 1995. He worships at the FREE Synagogue, where
a plaque hangs in honor of his father.
"Our Torah has found its home," he said, speaking
in Russian. "We can walk in the streets here with
the Torah, and we don't have to be afraid of anybody."
The scroll, worth about $15,000, is one of two Torahs
the synagogue has acquired in recent years from former
Soviet Jewish immigrants. The other scroll, originally
from Ukraine, was also rededicated Sunday for use at its
The synagogue has had both scrolls completely restored.
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