Chicago Sinai Torah scrolls

Reflections

Chicago Sinai Torah scrolls are filled with many stories… But, most recently, I learned that one of our Torah scrolls stands tall in the American History Museum in Washington, DC.

Chicago Sinai Torah scrolls are filled with many stories. Not just the stories of the five books of Moses. Or the stories about our students reading from the sacred texts. Not just the story of the journey our Torah scroll made from Selma, Alabama to Washington, DC last summer. But, most recently, I learned that one of our Torah scrolls stands tall in the American History Museum in Washington, DC.

In the beginning of December, I spent a weekend in Washington, DC with a few of our confirmation students at the Religious Action Center L’taken Seminar. For an entire weekend, our students learn about important issues in our country and learn about the Reform movement’s position on these issues.The weekend culminates on Capitol Hill, where they lobby to members of Congress and Senate. This year, our students lobbied on Gun Violence Protection and Criminal Justice Reform. You will have a chance to hear their speeches at an upcoming Shabbat service. Stay tuned. 

On Sunday afternoon, we went to the Smithsonian museums. Our students chose to go to the Museum of Natural History. Later that evening, two rabbis shared with me about their experience at the American History Museum. They were in the section of African American History, and as they turned a corner, they both saw a Torah scroll which of course, caught the rabbis’ eye. The exhibit titled, “Pillars of Faith: African Americans and Judaism” displayed several Jewish artifacts including the Torah scroll and a prayer shawl. 

The prayer shawl displayed that was made for Rabbi Capers Funnye to mark the 25th anniversary of the Rabbi’s ordination. 

The scroll as is displayed, is open to Kedoshim, to the very middle of the Torah, to the verse we read, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

But what was most interesting was the note about the Torah scroll that read: 

“This rescued Polish Torah scroll (ca. Mid-nineteenth century) was a gift from Chicago Sinai Congregation to Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation.” 

I did not know this story, and I don’t know much more than what I have shared. But our Torah scroll has made its way to the Smithsonian. So the next time you are in Washington, DC, perhaps you will go visit a part of Chicago Sinai’s history, at the museum. 

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