Traffic was halted for a while in Squirrel Hill Sunday afternoon, but this time it wasn’t caused by detours from tunnel construction.
Instead of cars blasting their horns and 18-wheelers barreling through the neighborhood, joyous music and festive dancing took control of the streets for a Torah dedication.
The dancing and parade procession of Hillel Academy Sefer Torah L’Dorot proceeded from Shady Avenue down Beacon Street until arriving at the Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh. The Torah was dedicated in honor of Isadore Joshowitz by his family.
Numerous organizations from the Jewish community came together for the occasion. Along with Hillel faculty and students, members of the Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, Rabbi Daniel Wasserman of Shaare Torah Congregation, as well as others were on hand.
“Since the Torah is for all Jewish people, we wanted it to be an event for all Jewish people so we were able to turn it into a communitywide event in a way to create a community environment,” said Daniel Kraut, CEO of Hillel. “It was a very successful day since we were able to involve a large section of the community in Squirrel Hill and an event that gave us a Torah at the end.”
In addition to the Jewish community, several political leaders of Pittsburgh made a showing including Councilman Bill Peduto, Democratic nominee for mayor; Dan Gilman, Democratic nominee for District 8 city councilman; and Councilman Corey O’Connor, District 5.
The parade began at the corner of Shady Avenue and Beacon Street near Congregation Beth Shalom, and slowly made its way down Beacon Street. Banners and signs held by students led the way followed closely behind by a truck blaring music from speakers aided by a singer and a saxophonist carried on an attachment on the back of the truck.
Dancing broke out multiple times along the path coming to a head at the corner of Beacon Street and Murray Avenue where one group of men danced around a man in a wheelchair as another man assisted him in laying tefillin.
Murray Avenue traffic was stopped by police as the procession moved across the intersection and a group of men circled and danced around an officer who stood emotionless, arms at his sides, with eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses.
The dedicated Torah was carried down the street under an Israeli flag. The new Torah came from Israel and will replace an old Torah that was currently unusable, according to Kraut. He said the old scroll would eventually be repaired and used again.
The parade came to an end at Hillel, where the music and dancing continued for a short time. Eventually, the Torah was brought into the sanctuary where a portion was read and then it was placed in the ark.
While many of the adults followed the Torah into the sanctuary, children ran off to the other side of the school where an inflatable obstacle course and a petting zoo were set up.
Children fed the chickens, goats, sheep and llama enclosed in a small area. One boy had to yank his tzitzit out of a hungry goat’s mouth.
But young and old alike enjoyed the atmosphere as the community came together.
“It’s a very special event when you get a new Sefer Torah and bring it to the shul,” said Yeshoua Pershell, a Yeshiva student. “When the whole community comes together it’s nice because usually you have different parties for different sectors but when you’re all together it’s very nice.”
(Andrew Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)