The Chabad of SCV congregation will gather to complete a new Torah in a special celebration at the synagogue on Sunday, September 17 starting at 5 p.m.
Commissioned by three sisters in memory of their parents, Chabad’s new Seldon and Eva Mars Torah is the first created specifically by and for the SCV Jewish community, and not a hand-me-down from another temple, said Chabad of SCV Rabbi Choni Marozov.
The congregation will also dedicate the new Torah just in time for the high holy day of Rosh Hashona and the beginning of the Jewish New Year at sunset on Wednesday, September 20.
“The Torah scroll is something that unites all Jewish people — it personifies the whole essence of community,” Rabbi Marozov said. “In every congregation, the Torah scroll is the centerpiece of the synagogue. It is placed on a certain wall in the synagogue, and everyone prays towards the Torah scroll.”
The sisters — Susie DelBagno of West Hills, Sharon Reifman of Santa Clarita and Debbie Haas of Plano, Texas — commissioned the new Torah for Chabad of SCV to honor their late parents in December 2016.
Eva and Seldon Mars
Seldon and Eva Mars were Holocaust survivors, longtime SCV residents and active members of Chabad of SCV, where many worshippers thought of Seldon as an honorary rabbi. After he passed away in 2010, Eva remained active in the congregation until she died in 2016.
“Our parents were really involved in the Jewish community, and with the Chabad,” Reifman said, “and we just asked [Rabbi Marozov] last year if there was anything we could donate, or get, for the temple to honor them.”
“He said, ‘Well, we do need a Torah, but that’s expensive.'”
Reifman found out the Chabad of SCV’s present Torah is an old one Rabbi Marozov got from another temple.
“Chabad never really had a new Torah of its own,” she said. “As Holocaust survivors, it meant everything to our parents to be Jewish and to be a part of the Jewish community. So I talked to my sisters and we decided we would take some of our inheritance and just buy a Torah. It was something special we could do to honor them.”
Sisters Debbie Haas, Susie DelBagno and Sharon Reifman
More than 100 Chabad families also contributed to the fund to complete the new Torah, the cost of which Reifman politely declined to disclose (but Rabbi Marazov said later a Torah generally costs $25,000 to $60,000, and some can cost as much as $100,000).
The original Torah was written three and a half thousand years ago, and passed down from God to Moses, then passed down through generations, Rabbi Marozov said.
“We have the same Torah scroll today,” he said. “You’ll find all over the world that there’s only one version of the Torah, the five books of Moses.”
The first five books of the Bible — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy — are also sometimes called the Pentateuch, meaning “five books.” They include all the laws and instructions the Bible says God gave Moses to give to the people of Israel.
Every Torah scroll is precise, has 304,805 letters, and each character must be perfect.
“If one of the letters is scratched, erased or damaged, then the entire Torah scroll becomes invalid until it’s fixed,” Rabbi Marozov said.
For its new Torah, Chabad engaged the services of Rabbi Yosef Teitelman, a Sherman Oaks-based sofer, or a scribe who can translate and transcribe Hebrew writings.
Rabbi Teitelman visited Chabad of SCV in December 2016, and led Rabbi Morozov, the Mars’ daughters and other members of the congregation in using a quill and special ink to inscribe the first letters of their new Torah on a fresh parchment scroll (see adjacent photo).
“Then the parchment we started was shipped to Israel, and a scribe finished it there, all except the last few letters,” Reifman said.
“Everything was written by hand,” Rabbi Marozov said. “It took the scribe close to a year to write.”
“It’s almost like having a baby,” Reifman said.
“The Torah actually being made in Israel is exciting, too, because our father has family in Israel,” she said. “Our parents went to Israel a couple times and loved it there.”
“On Sunday, Rabbi Teitelman will be coming back to visit the congregation,” Rabbi Marozov said. “Those who contributed and were part of putting this Torah together will have an opportunity to help him fill in those last few letters of the Torah scroll.”
He said Chabad of SCV having its own Torah is a very special, historic event for the local Jewish community.
“And it’s a very joyous occasion,” the rabbi said. “We have a tradition where we dance for the Torah. We put it under a canopy, and dance around the street, welcoming the Torah to the synagogue with special prayers. And food!”
The three sisters will be there. “Most of our family and friends are coming out to this,” Reifman said. “We invite everyone in the community to join us.”
There are still dedication opportunities. Chabad of SCV is located at 23120 W. Lyons Avenue #19, Newhall 91321. Call 661-254-3434.