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Hillel hosts Torah restoration

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Cooper Temple | The Daily Wildcat

Rabbi Gedaliah Druin, a former medical doctor who now works as the president and chief scribe of Sofer On Site, speaks to students about the process of restoring the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies' 200-year-old Torah scroll at the Hillel Center on Tuesday. Druin travels the country repairing old scrolls, writing new ones and promoting the maintenance of the Torah.

A 200-year-old Torah scroll that was donated to the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies will continue restoration by a scribe today at the  Hillel Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The restoration began Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. and continues today. Select UA classes will sit in on the restoration and Rabbi Gedaliah Druin will speak to them and any other students, faculty or community members who attend.

Druin, president of Sofer On Site, said anyone can come watch the 3,500-year-old craft of working with holy scriptures. He said the Torah is not a book and is not read like a book — rather, it is sung. According to Druin, if any of the words or spaces are missing, the Torah does not work.

Druin also said people can ask him questions about what he is doing as he completes the restoration, as long as he still has enough time to complete his work.

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Beth Nakhai, an associate professor of Judaic studies and anthropology, said many people find it interesting to watch somebody work in such a traditional way. She said the scroll is handwritten on parchment by a scribe using a special, handmade ink.

In order to become a scribe, students must be certified via examination. After receiving their certification, prospective scribes then practice alongside working scribes, Druin said.

“It’s really a craft,” Druin said. “I can learn everything I can. I think I’m the greatest in the world — but the truth is, I really have no idea what I’m doing until I sit with someone else, who will then reveal what’s happening.”

Nakhai acquired the Torah scroll from an anonymous donor and gave it to the ACJS. She said the scroll has never been purposefully damaged, but it has been exposed to wear and tear.

“What we’re doing is having all of that damage repaired,” Nakhai said. “The scribe came last year, worked for a day and estimated that maybe two more days of work would be required to complete the repairs of the scroll.”

Nakhai said those two additional days were Tuesday and today. She said restoring this Torah is a testimony to the importance of tradition in Judaism and preserving communities.

“A Torah scroll is at the core of Judaism and at the core of Jewish tradition,” Nakhai said. “From that perspective, people who come will be able to learn something about Judaism.”

Leah Cresswell, a journalism senior, said restoring the Torah is a beautiful project that represents Judaism’s own restoration. 

“I think that restoring this Torah is very significant because it is symbolic for Judaism as a whole,” Cresswell said. “It is a way of saying that we are still here and we are not going anywhere, no matter what the world throws our way.”

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