Jewish tradition holds that when the Children of Israel were gathered at the base of Mt. Sinai some 3,500 years ago, having been redeemed from their Egyptian bondage, the Almighty presented them with the sacred books of the Torah.
The Torah – written on a scroll and regularly read in synagogue services – has become a symbol of Jewish peoplehood and continuity ever since.
In recognition of the ever-evolving needs of modern Jewry, B’nai B’rith Denver has obtained a Torah scroll for community use outside of the conventional synagogue setting.
Bill Berger, president of B’nai B’rith Denver, and Chuck Michaels, a board member and past president, spoke with me recently about the opportunities that this Torah scroll offers to Colorado Jewry. A full audio of our conversation, last nine and half minutes, is available here.
B’nai B’rith Denver’s Torah originated in Poland near the start of the 20th century. It made its way to Chicago with a rabbi there, before coming to Denver with a cantor – who transferred its ownership to B’nai B’rith Denver. After their group purchased the Torah, Messrs. Berger and Michaels consulted with a Florida scribe who made repairs to the scroll to re-kosher it (no letter can be faded to the point that it is unrecognizable), before – in June 2012 – it was formally presented to the community at a ceremony in Leadville, CO.
B’nai B’rith Denver is integral in maintaining the Hebrew Cemetery in Leadville – a cemetery clean-up is held annually in June. (See photos from the June 2013 event.)
Explaining the need for a B’nai B’rith Denver Torah – which is likely the first in the chapter’s history and unique among B’nai B’riths across the nation – Mr. Berger noted:
“One of the services we thought we could provide to the community was the opportunity to have a Torah available for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Not everybody belongs to a synagogue here in Denver and we found that many people would like to have their [child’s ceremony] in a unique location.”
Members of the Colorado Jewish community who would like to use the B’nai B’rith Denver Torah are invited to call (303) 393-7358 to learn how it can become part of their family celebration. While there is no cost to rent the Torah, a voluntary donation to B’nai B’rith Denver is welcomed. Care instructions for the Torah are provided ahead of rental, and the duration of rental is flexible.
B’nai B’rith Denver – a social service organization – has long been a central part of Colorado’s Jewish scene. Indeed, the group was founded in 1872 – four years before Colorado achieved statehood.