The new Sephardic minyan at Shaare Torah Congregation marked another milestone this past Shabbat when its worshippers read from a Torah scroll contained within a traditional Sephardic case.
Some 25 men, women and children watched as the Torah, which was made available by Shaare Torah, was opened and used.
The scroll itself is also Sephardic. Years ago, though, etz chaim (rollers) — the kind that are traditionally attached to Ashkenazi scrolls — were retrofitted to the parchment.
Rabbi Daniel Wasserman of Shaare Torah said the scroll, which was inspected by an Israeli company, Machon Ot, several years ago and found to have been written in Israel, is believed to be 80 to 85 years old.
He said he didn’t know how the Torah came into the congregation’s possession, but it was already here by the time he arrived.
“For the first time in this city for 30 or 40 years, possibly ever, we had a Sephardic Torah minyan with a Sephardic Torah,” said Avram Avishai, who worships with the minyan.
He said Wasserman purchased the case while visiting Israel two weeks ago for the birth of his granddaughter.
Avishai, himself a Sephardic Jew whose family came from Egypt and Ottoman Turkey, said the appearance of the Torah in its new case was an emotional moment for the worshippers.
“There were a few of families who have been here for many decades,” he said, “and you could see their eyes light up at the sight of something they haven’t seen for decades.”
The sight of a Sephardic Torah in a traditional case visibly moved a couple of worshippers who escaped the Iranian Revolution, he added.
The Sephardic minyan meets once a month before Rosh Chodesh, but Avishai said it is growing.
“The idea is [to expand the services to], at the minimum, once a week, but to grow it as much as possible,” he said. “As long as people are interested, Rabbi Wasserman is very interested in facilitating that.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)