Gala Parade Escorts Two Torah Scrolls From Russia
To New Home at F.R.E.E. Brighton Beach Synagogue
Hachnasas Sefer Torah Evokes Memories of Surviving
Russian Oppression

- Hamodia

October 24, 2004
By Daniel Keren

Click here to see a photo gallery of the event

Hundreds of Russian-Jewish immigrants living in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn took part yesterday in a joyous hachnasas sefer Torah. The celebration marked the restoration of two Sifrei Torah that had been hidden for decades during the deadly oppression against Yiddishkeit by the Bolshevik Communist regime, which governed the former Soviet Union from 1917 until its breakup in 1990. Both Sifrei Torah, which are each more than 100 years old, have been restored in order to be kosher for reading in the Brighton Beach FREE (Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe) Shul, 2915 Brighton Beach 6 Street, which shares the facilities of the Hebrew Alliance in Brighton Beach. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz presented a proclamation that declared yesterday FREE Sefer Torah Day in Brooklyn. He noted that the two Sifrei Torah symbolized the borough's double bracha of being host to America's largest Jewish community and also being host to America's largest Russian-Jewish community. One of the sifrei Torah, a 150-year-old scroll, was taken to Russia by Avrohom Dovidov, a "h, in 1940 when he fled the Nazi invasion of his hometown of Riga, Latvia after the war, Mr. Dovidov returned with the Sefer Torah, which he hid in his home. His son, Mr. Shaul Dovidov, told Hamodia yesterday that his father would carefully bring (he Sefer Torah each Friday afternoon to the Riga Shul before Mincha and was quick to return it to his home immediately after Maariv on Motzaei Shabbos. His father always feared that the Communist authorities would discover and confiscate the Torah scroll. The son arrived in America in 1995 and a few years later began attending regularly services at the FREE Shul in Brighton Beach where he lives with his wife. He realized that in this free country, the best place for the Sefer Torah, which his father risked his life to protect, was in a Shul that was serving to awaken the sparks of Yiddishkeit in other Russian-Jewish immigrants. Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman, director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization, pointed out that whereas most Hachnasas Sefer Torah ceremonies celebrate newly written Torah scrolls, this one in Brighton Beach was highlighting the return of two Sifrei Torah that had survived decades of Jewish oppression. It is important to celebrate the Torah with joy and not begrudgingly, he said, as befitting one who appreciates the goodness bestowed by Hashem upon His people. Rabbi David Hollander, Rav of the Hebrew Alliance, also spoke of the importance of not just rejoicing with the Torah, but also living one's life based on the Torah. He noted that we live in a cruel world and it is only the Torah that can give us any hope of surviving intact. He exhorted the audience to take advantage of the freedom in this country to live a lifestyle based on the Torah. Also asked to speak was Curtis Sliwa, founder and director of the Guardian Angels. He recalled how he was asked to come to the aid of the Lubavitch community in 1991 when mobs from the African American community attacked the Jews in Crown Heights, and the police just stood on the sidelines. Sliwa then challenged the Russian-Jewish audience to "tell your children, tell your grandchildren and tell your great-grandchildren" to not get lost in the pursuit of becoming part of the American culture. He declared that as a non-Jew he appreciated the fact that the Jewish people were the Chosen Nation and that the crowd should instill in their children the importance of living their lives based on their legacy - the Torah. After the speeches and a performance by the M Generation Boys Choir, the Hachnasas Sefer Torah proceeded from the corner of Brighton Beach Avenue and Coney Island Avenue where the Sifrei Torah were brought to their new home at the FREE Shul, accompanied by hundreds of Russian-Jewish immigrants who had a keen appreciation for the religious freedoms that many American-born Jews might take for granted.

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