Not even the likes of a cruel and unrelenting pandemic can diminish the eternal wisdom of the Torah. That’s why Chabad of Downtown pressed on despite Covid-19 and recently held a small, socially distanced ritual ceremony to celebrate the arrival of its first-ever permanent Torah scroll.
The ceremony — which also celebrated Chabad of Baltimore’s bar mitzvah anniversary — was held last Saturday morning, Dec. 5, in a meeting room of the Hyatt Place Harbor East. (All of the photos that accompany this article were taken prior to the start of Shabbat.)
“The Torah serves as a symbol of light and hope for us today amidst the darkness of the pandemic, as it did for generations before us,” said Rabbi Levi Druk, director of Chabad of Downtown.
The ceremony included a Shacharit worship service, an inspection of the new Torah scroll, speeches, the reading of mayoral and gubernatorial proclamations, and pre-packaged kiddush refreshments.
Participation at the ceremony was limited, with all attendees required to wear face masks and maintain social distancing.
The Torah was sponsored and dedicated by the Juter family in memory of Baltimore resident and Chabad of Downtown supporter Harold Sidney Juter, who passed away in December of 2017. The ceremony was held on the third yahrzeit of the South African-born Juter’s death.
Besides Rabbi Druk and his wife, Chani, among those in attendance at the ceremony and celebration were Harold Juter’s wife, Jacqui Juter, his son, Elton Juter, and his brother-in-law, Avron Lewin.
Believed to be of Eastern European provenance, Chabad of Downtown’s new Torah reportedly arrived in the United States in the 1940s and originally served a Staten Island, N.Y., synagogue.
“A Torah scroll is an appropriate addition to the downtown community and represents the unbroken chain of Jewish tradition and survival,” said Rabbi Druk. “The Torah contains the foundation of ancient Jewish wisdom and is the essence of our identity as Jews. Possessing our own Torah is cause for great pride and celebration.”
Throughout the pandemic, Chabad of Downtown has provided social, humanitarian and spiritual support to Baltimore residents. Such activities include Passover seders-to-go, an outdoor Rosh Hashanah service at the harbor, outdoor study sessions and social events.
Patterson Park area resident Dr. Bruce Coopersmith said the the Torah welcoming ceremony was an important milestone for Chabad of Downtown at this time.
“Welcoming a new Torah shows that we are alive and well, and we are looking to the future and see light rather than darkness,” he said. “It energizes us to know that the community goes on with such devotion.”
Founded in 2008, Chabad of Downtown serves the city’s young adults, graduate students, residents and professionals. For information, visit https://www.bmorejewish.com/.