Beth Israel Congregation - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Our Torah Scrolls
Beth Israel has six Torah scrolls. One is a two hundred year old scroll written in Germany, another scroll was written in Hungary, two scrolls were written in Romania, and another two scrolls were written in Russia, all completed over 90 years ago. What happened to the scribes who painstakingly copied those scrolls, and to their Jewish communities? There is no need to recount the tragic history that engulfed the Jews of those countries over the past 90 years. Yet, these Torah scrolls have found a haven, a refuge and a place of honor in our congregation. The stories about these Torahs follow.
Amster Torah Scroll
The Amster Torah scroll was written in Romania around 90 years ago. The sofer, the scribe who wrote the scroll, used a type of handwriting called Beit Yosef. This Torah was repaired by Barbara and David August, and the family continues to contribute towards its repair in celebration of their sons and parents.
In 2003 this scroll was dedicated by Herb and Carol Amster in loving memory of Rose and Gershon Amster from their children and grandchildren. Rose and Gershon Amster, the parents of Herb Amster, emigrated to the United States from what is now Belarus. Gershon became a milliner (a maker of women’s hats), and Rose, his wife, assisted him in his business. Both were generous with their success, and employed most of their close relatives at one time or another. Rose and Gershon were active members of their congregation, the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center (an Orthodox congregation) in Brooklyn for many years.
The inscription on the left etz hayim now includes a quotation from the Talmud “As my parents planted for me, so do I plant for those who come after me.”
Elving Family Torah Scroll
The Elving Family Torah scroll was written in Romania around 120 years ago. The sofer, the scribe who wrote the scroll, used a type of handwriting called Beit Yosef.
This scroll was purchased by Joseph Elving, the grandfather of longtime members Phillip and Beulah Elving, when he was a prosperous linen merchant in Zyradow, Poland. In the 1930’s, after his death, his son Bernard Elving, brought the scroll to the United States and his son Phillip inherited it from him. The Elvings lent the scroll on a long term basis to Beth Israel. It is currently owned by Phillip and Beulah’s daughter, Elizabeth Elving Bass. The family does not know what caused Joseph Elving to purchase a Torah scroll, but it remains one of their most precious possessions, and a real legacy from their past in Europe.
Gershowitz Torah Scroll
The Gershowitz Torah Scroll was written in Russia around 90 years ago. The sofer, the scribe who wrote the scroll, used a type of handwriting called Beit Yosef.
In 2000 this scroll was purchased and dedicated in memory of Henry Gershowitz by his family. Henry Gershowitz was President of Beth Israel twice, in 1970, and again 1994 – 1995. A member of the original building committee, he was active in all the building improvements, including the renovation of the Garfunkel-Schteingart Activities Center (2010). Henry attended services every Shabbat and encouraged members to learn how to lead the parts of the service.
Lampe/Jacobs Torah Scroll
The Lampe/Jacobs scroll was written in Hungary around 80 years ago. The sofer, the scribe who wrote the scroll, used a type of handwriting called Beit Yosef.
This scroll was dedicated in memory of Herman Jacobs, a former Hillel Director, by his wife Rachel Jacobs, and in memory of Rae and Isidore Lampe by their family. Both of these families were long time members of Beth Israel.
Seid Family Torah
The Seid Family Torah scroll was written in Russia around 90 years ago. The sofer, the scribe who wrote the scroll, used a type of handwriting called Beit Yosef.
In 2003 this scroll was dedicated in honor of the Seid Family by Richard Seid and Aleksandra Wilanowski. Richard Seid served as President of Beth Israel from 1998-1999. Trained as a lawyer, he earned his MSW while teaching law, and for over 30 years he represented indigent people in the courts. On the left etz hayim appear the famous words from Pirkei Avot “Be cautious in rendering a decision, rear many students, and build a fence to protect the Torah.”
The Marculeson Torah Scroll
The Marculeson Torah Scroll was written in Germany around 200 years ago. The sofer, the scribe who wrote the scroll, used a type of handwriting called Valish Beit.
While Harold White served as Rabbi at Beth Israel in the 1950’s, this scroll was dedicated in memory of Morris Marculeson by his family, Leah Berta Feller, Max Miller, Marilyn Miller Gilbert and Anne Miller. Murray Miller, the grandson of Morris Marculeson, and his wife Yetta are still members of Beth Israel. The Miller and Weiskopf families participated in the complete repair of this Torah scroll.