Gala Parade Escorts Two Torah Scrolls From Russia
To New Home at F.R.E.E. Brighton Beach Synagogue
Long - Hidden Torah Paraded Through Brooklyn
- Federal News Radio

October 24, 2004

Click here to see a photo gallery of the event

Oct. 24, 2004 - A 150-year-old Torah, hidden for a half-century in the former Soviet Union, was paraded through New York's streets Sunday on its way to its new home at a Brooklyn synagogue.

Many in the procession of hundreds of former Soviet Jews sang English, Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian songs as the foot-high scroll, covered by a Jewish bridal canopy, was taken to the Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe Synagogue.

"We kept it in a closet, behind the clothes. And every week, my father carried it to the Sabbath service, then back home to hide it," said Senya Dovidov, 68, a one-time shoe factory worker in Latvia who gave the Torah to the synagogue.

Dovidov said his father, Abraham, was a leader of the Jewish community in the Latvian capital of Riga during the 1930s, and fled to Russia with the scroll when the Nazis invaded during World War II.

He returned to live under a Soviet regime "that made it dangerous to show that you were a practicing Jew," said Hershel Okunov, a Ukrainian-born rabbi at the synagogue.

Dovidov, who speaks only Russian, Latvian and Yiddish, brought the scroll with him when he came to the United States in 1995. He worships at the FREE Synagogue, where a plaque hangs in honor of his father.

"Our Torah has found its home," he said, speaking in Russian. "We can walk in the streets here with the Torah, and we don't have to be afraid of anybody."

The scroll, worth about $15,000, is one of two Torahs the synagogue has acquired in recent years from former Soviet Jewish immigrants. The other scroll, originally from Ukraine, was also rededicated Sunday for use at its services.

The synagogue has had both scrolls completely restored.

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A report of the story in Russian

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