October 25, 2004
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a photo gallery of the event
By LORENA MONGELLI
and NEIL GRAVES
October 25, 2004 -- Two freshly restored Torahs ? survivors
of the Holocaust and Soviet persecution ? were officially
rededicated yesterday at the Friends of Refugees of Eastern
Europe Synagogue in Brighton Beach.
A procession of about 1,000, led by musicians and dancers,
wound four blocks through the heart of the Russian Jewish
community in Brooklyn. They bore the sacred scrolls under
an ornate ceremonial canopy.
One of the Torahs, dating back to at least the 1860s,
belonged to the Dovidov family of Riga, Latvia. The Nazis
had burned down the synagogue of patriarch Abraham Dovidov
during the 1941 invasion, but Dovidov kept the synagogue's
Torah hidden from the Germans in a closet. He brought
it out only for Sabbath ceremonies.
Dovidov fled to Russia but returned to Riga after the
war, only to face a Soviet occupation there "that
made it dangerous to show you were a practicing Jew,"
said Rabbi Hershel Okunov, vice president of the FREE
Descendents eventually brought the heirloom scrolls to
America with them after Abraham Dovidov died nearly15
"Our Torah has found its home," said Senya
Dovidov, a one-time shoe-factory worker in Latvia and
the son of Abraham. "We can walk in the streets here
with the Torah, and we don't have to be afraid of anybody."
The other Torah, purchased by Okunov six months ago from
a private source, had a similar experience of survival
amid persecution in the Ukraine during World War II, organizers
"The Torahs are survivors," said Rabbi Shmuel
Butman, director of the Lubavitch youth organization.
"The reason we make such a big deal of rededication
of these two Torahs are they represent the survival of
the Jewish people. We overcame, and so have these Torahs."
It took three months of painstaking labor by hand to
restore the parchments, a process that included the darkening
and sharpening of letters.
"Every letter on the handwritten parchment has to
be in perfect order to be used in the synagogue,"
Okunov said more than $10,000 had to be raised for the
Holocaust survivor Fira Stukelman, 71, said the day was
special for her.
"I'm very proud," said Stukelman, who was a
pre-teen during the war. "This is an unbelievable
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