On Sunday, July 25, Golf Manor Synagogue (GMS) completed a new Sefer Torah and celebrated its dedication along with the restoration of two others, carrying all three in joyous procession from Congregation Zichron Eliezer (CZE) to their own Shul, where the celebration continued inside. Hachnosas Sefer Torah — the inauguration of a Torah scroll — is not a frequent ceremony in Jewish liturgy.
Surrounded by a crowd, including many young children, under a a tent outside CZE, the final letters were filled in with the traditional feather pen and black ink, overseen by a sofer, or professional Jewish scribe. As the last letter was completed, joy spread throughout the crowd, as an ecstatic community began the celebration of the Torah.
In atmosphere akin to a wedding, a procession of about one hundred and fifty people, dancing and singing along to live music set out from CZE to GMS. The entire route, from Section road down Elbrook to GMS, was cordoned off by uniformed Amberely Village police officers. Escorted by another police car, a trailer-drawn truck led the procession, with a floral arbor covering a live keyboardist playing songs like ‘Torat Hashem Temimah’, or the Torah of G-d is perfect, and ‘Ivdu et Hashem B’Simcha’ or we serve our G-d with joy. The Torahs, were carried by community leaders under a ‘chuppah’ or Jewish wedding canopy; between the truck and the chuppa, lines of men danced backwards in order to face the Torahs, and the rest of the procession ran alongside or behind, doubling in numbers along the route. Children had been given Torah flags to wave and Torah treats, to symbolize the sweetness of Torah.
Rabbi Stuart Lavenda, Rabbi Emeritus of GMS, said “This is a beautiful event, and a community event — when you look around, you see all Cincinnati Shuls represented, all community members participated and involved.” Indeed, every orthodox synagogue in the Cincinnati area was represented, with Rabbis and members from Sha’arei Torah, CZE and GMS as well as the Cincinnati Kollel, Jewish Center in Blue Ash and ‘The Shul’ in Roselawn attending the event. Also in attendance was the head of Jewish Education at Yeshivas Me’or HaTorah-Chicago, Rabbi Henoch Plotnick, who spoke at GMS over Shabbat, and the President of Ner Yisroel Rabbinical college in Baltimore, Rabbi Boruch Neuberger.
With the weather in the 90’s, organizers and volunteers had set up hydration stations along the route, passing out cold water to participants. Stopping to hydrate himself and his baby, Chairman of GMS Yosef Kirschner reflected "This event is the culmination of months of hard work, a time of Simcha (joy) with our new Torahs, not only for the Golf Manor Community, but all Jewish communities in Cincinnati, and for all the Jewish People.”
The procession continued down Elbrook, before turning into the parking lot of Cincinnati Hebrew Day School for more dancing and singing; it ended on the steps of GMS. The community moved inside, where a meal and magic show were waiting for the children, and adults were greeted with cold drinks. In the sanctuary, a service reminiscent of the holiday Simchat Torah, or the yearly celebration of the Torah, proceeded, with noted community members taking turns leading congregants in a joyful responsive readings of Jewish prayers. The Torahs were put into the Ark, and congregants prayed the Minchah, or afternoon prayer service. A wine bar and gala buffet concluded the celebration.
The Rabbi of GMS, Rabbi Yosef Alt, spoke before the dinner, emphasizing that “This is not the end, trust me, this is only the beginning!”.
An event that began with such unbridled celebration ended on a note of hope, looking forward to the continued growth and success of the entire Cincinnati Jewish community.