Jewish Students Celebrate New Torah in the Nation’s Capital
Chabad parades through downtown Ottawa in memory of Holocaust victims
Members of the Chabad Student Network of Ottawa (CSN) celebrated this past Sunday in honour of a newly donated Torah to the organization, with a short parade downtown.
The Torah, which was originally written between 50 to 60 years ago, had not been kosher for an extended period of time, as many of its letters had faded away as time passed.
However, through the help of three donors, Larry Hartman, Allan Scope and David Freeman, the Torah was re-written throughout the past year and completed within the last few weeks. The donation, which marked the first student Torah in the history of the nation’s capital, was made in memory of the 1.5 million Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust.
With over 100 guests in attendance, including many students of the University of Ottawa, Carleton University and Algonquin College, CSN commemorated this special occasion with a ceremony that began at U of O. Later on, those in attendance sang and danced in the streets with the Torah as they were given a police escort to march to the local Chabad House.
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson and Rabbi Reuven Bulka of Congregation Machzikei Hadas were both on hand for the festivities.
Watson told the crowd that in the midst of such a joyous occasion, which is made possible by the inclusive nature of Ottawa’s community, thoughts must also remain with the families of the four victims, three of whom were children that were recently murdered at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, France.
“Regardless of what faith we are, let us stand strong for ourselves and others against those preach hatred and intolerance,” said Watson.
“It’s important that we come together to celebrate the diversity of our community and the customs and traditions that make us unique… The backbone of the Jewish faith, the Torah, is the basis of the Jewish existence and a symbol of eternity and eternal life. It’s a link to your history and it will become a link to your future.”
Watson told Shalom Life that the horrific events in France serve as a “sad reminder that we still have to be vigilant against those who preach hatred and intolerance and who are anti-Semitic.
“There are still evil people in the world who will do evil things if we are not strong as a community and don’t stand up and speak out against hatred and racism,” he said.
Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky, co-director of CSN, echoed this statement and felt that this public celebration was a symbol of proof that the pride of Jews around the world “is not going to bend or be deterred.
“Whenever the Torah’s taken out of the ark, it is kissed by everyone. When it is placed in the ark, this is done with the utmost respect,” Boyarsky said.
“There is a profound connection between the Torah and the Jewish people. The Torah has always been part of Jewish life. It is up to us to learn it, live it, breathe it and really make it part of our lives.”
Rebecca Rosenstock, city-wide president of CSN and a law student at U of O, said that despite initially being unsure of how many people would attend the Torah dedication, she was pleased with the turnout.
“It’s an event that doesn’t happen very often so it was really unique. It was really great to see so many people come out and the specialness of having a new Torah made it great. We really appreciate the support from the community.”
Watson characterized the nature of Ottawa’s Jewish community as “very successful and very generous,” noting that some of the most prominent philanthropists of Ottawa come from within the Jewish community.
“It’s a very caring, tolerant and compassionate community and we’re seeing that here today.”