Sefer Torah is dedicated in Southwest Houston
Houston’s newest Orthodox shul, Congregation Ahavat Yisrael, dedicated a Hungarian Torah, on Sunday, May 2. Hachnasat sefer Torah – bringing in of a sefer Torah – included a festive parade in Southwest Houston, from Ludington Park to the shul on Stallion.
Close to 200 people, many of them children, joined in the procession that featured members of the greater Houston Jewish community dancing in the street in front of and behind the Torah, which was carried under a tallit chuppah. Rabbis and community leaders took turns cradling the scroll in their arms, while a klezmer band invited singing and rejoicing.
The Torah was given by Congregation Brith Shalom to Ahavat Yisrael. Steve and Andrea Eisenstein engaged a sofer to make the scroll kosher and provided the mantel, in honor of Andrea’s mother, Goldie L. Shankman Glick, and in memory of Andrea’s father, Simon David Shankman, and Steve’s parents, Roslyn and Perry Eisenstein. Richard Rolnick donated the crown.
Ahavat Yisrael was founded in spring 2008. According to its treasurer, David Garner, the membership includes 25 families. “We have a daily morning minyan and full services on Shabbat,” said Garner. Currently, services are conducted in a beautifully expanded and refurbished “cabana house,” which sits in the backyard of Rabbi Ari and Atara Segal. The congregation enjoys the leadership of a rabbinic committee, which includes Rabbi Segal, Rabbi Arnold Greenman and Rabbi Avi Pollak.
What they are saying:
Rabbi Joseph Radinsky, rabbi emeritus of United Orthodox Synagogues, was one of many clergy participating in the celebration. “I believe very much that our enemy is not other Jews; our enemy is assimilation,” said Rabbi Radinsky. “And, any time we can have a new shul, a new sefer Torah – that strengthens Judaism. The more shuls, the more Torahs, the more learning, the better it is.”
Rabbi Avi Pollak, Judaic studies principal at Robert M. Beren Academy: “The sefer Torah is at the spiritual center of our shul. Officially welcoming a sefer Torah brings our shul forward communally. It’s as important as welcoming people from all over the community who joined in this ceremony – friends and rabbis and leaders from across the spectrum in Houston Jewry.”
Steve Eisenstein: “This is an opportunity to pass the heritage on. This Torah is somewhere between 110 and 150 years old. We’re passing somebody’s Torah from Hungary down here to Houston, Texas, to younger generations. My parents were not religious, but they knew they were Jewish, and I’m sure they’re enjoying the idea that we are able to pass that heritage on to our grandchildren and subsequent generations. Every time I see my parents’ name on it, I sort of get a tear in my eye. We’re very pleased that we were able to do it.”
Andrea Eisenstein: “Never in my wildest imagination would I have expected to have the opportunity to donate a Torah. I did not come from a religious home and to come to this point has been wonderful. Not to mention that we got this through the generosity of Brith Shalom, and in the meantime, we were borrowing from United Orthodox – it’s such a community thing. Could the sofer have ever imagined that when he wrote this Torah over 100 years ago that it would end up in Houston, Texas?”
[Pictured: The community rejoiced with Congregation Ahavat Yisrael on May 2 when a new, 150-year-old sefer Torah was paraded down a Southwest Houston street. Rabbi Aryeh Wolbe was one of many given the honor of carrying the Hungarian scroll. Photo By Vicki Samuels]