History in the Making: New Torah Scroll Inaugurated in Zhytomyr

Hundreds participated in the festive inauguration of a new Torah Scroll into the ancient Grand Synagogue of Zhytomyr, a city in western Ukraine. This is the first brand-new scroll inaugurated in Zhytomyr for over a hundred years.

Guests from across Ukraine, Israel, and the United Kingdom, along with hundreds of members of the local Jewish community, and students of its educational institutions and ‘Alumim’ Children’s home and orphanage, participated last week in an exciting and historical inauguration event, which concluded in the recently reconstructed hall of the Grand Synagogue in Zhytomyr.

The reason for the special excitement was explained by the region’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, who led the celebrations. “When we first arrived in Zhytomyr after the end of Communism, and the efforts to revive Judaism in this once glorious community, we discovered many old Torah Scrolls all dating back more than 150 years, most in dire condition. We did our best to restore the ancient Torah scrolls and they have been in use ever since.”

“A few years ago, before the Covid-19 pandemic,” Rabbi Wilhelm continued, “a prominent Rabbi visited our Synagogue, Rabbi Sheinblag from London, and was called up to the Torah. He was very upset by the condition of the Torah scroll and immediately decided to contribute a new one, in partnership with an additional donor. This newly written Torah scroll is the first brand-new scroll inaugurated in the center of Zhytomyr for over a hundred years. We are all very excited.”

A few weeks after Rabbi Sheinblag’s pledge, Rabbi Shmuel Gotfried, a dear friend and supporter of the Zhytomyr community, passed away and his children decided to dedicate the Torah scroll in his memory.

Last week, the final letters were written by the Boyan Rebbe, and the family flew into Ukraine to attend the joyous ceremony that touched the hearts of all its participants. A festive procession honoring the Torah, accompanied by live music, paraded along the streets of the city until arrived at the Torah’s new home – the Grand Synagogue, a symbol of the revival of Jewry across Western Ukraine.

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