Whoever writes or fills in even one letter of a Sefer Torah, it is considered as though he or she had written it in its entirety”

-Moses Maimonides “Rambam”

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CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL 160TH ANNIVERSARY BE A BLESSING PROJECT

Q. What is the Be a Blessing Project?

A. Be a Blessing is the theme of Congregation Beth Israel’s 160th Anniversary celebration, the centerpiece of which is our People’s Torah project.  In addition to having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in writing our new Torah, there will be many opportunities to participate in a wide variety of enriching and fun events for all ages, as well as to contribute your time, talent and financial gifts in honor of what Congregation Beth Israel has meant to you and your family.

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UNDERSTANDING OUR PEOPLE’S TORAH PROJECT

What is Torah?

A. Torah is a Hebrew word that means “teaching.” First, Torah is the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Second, Torah is the body of Jewish literature that expounds upon and interprets the Five Books. For example, Talmud is Torah, too, because it fits the broader definition of texts that teach us about essential lessons in the Five Books. In our 160th year, we are preparing to scribe a Torah, the Five Books of Moses, just as it has been done for centuries.

Q. What is Our People’s Torah Project?

A. In a word, an opportunity.  An opportunity to be a blessing to yourself, your family, Beth Israel, and the Jewish community today and for generations to come by fulfilling the 613th commandment that every Jew must write a Torah in his or her lifetime. In addition to the scribing events, the project includes a year-long series of events where we can worship together, learn together and celebrate together.

Q. Will I really write in the Torah?

A. Yes! You or your family representative will put your hand to quill with our Sofer (our Torah scribe) and actually fill in a letter on the Torah Parchment which, when completed, will find its home in our Sanctuary’s Holy Ark for generations to come.

Q. Are we writing the new Torah at our Temple?

A. The task of writing the Torah has already begun in Israel where one of our scribes, Sofer Yosef Green, is writing most of the Torah text. Sofer Green will be sending sections of the parchment to us with some letters in outline form. His colleague, Rabbi Moshe Druin, will join us at Congregation Beth Israel monthly throughout 2014 to fill in the letters Sofer Green has outlined. When the outlined letters have been filled in, the parchments will be sewn together, thus completing our Sefer Torah.

Q. Can you tell me how Congregation Beth Israel intends to utilize the new Torah?

A. Yes, our People’s Torah will be used in all the ways of our existing beautiful Torahs –    most of which were generously donated by individual Temple families.

Q. What is the 613th Commandment?

A. The 613th and final commandment of the Torah mandates that every Jew should, at some point in his or her lifetime, participate in writing a Torah.  Our tradition teaches that when a Jew writes even one letter, it is as if he or she has written the whole Torah.

Q. Why is Congregation Beth Israel commissioning a new Torah?

A. At the center of our life is Torah, the source of our values, ethics, rites and rituals.  Can you think of anything more important than Torah to leave for the future? As it was for those who came before us, let it be for those who come with us and after us. Creating a Torah in honor of Congregation Beth Israel’s 160th Anniversary will create a permanent legacy for future generations.

Q. Who or what is Sofer on Site?

A. Congregation Beth Israel has engaged the services of Sofer on Site to prepare the new Torah for our Temple and provide an on-site, experienced Sofer (scribe) to assist our congregants with filling in 1,000 outlined letters. Sofer on Site has served communities such as ours for more than 25 years.

Q. How will Congregation Beth Israel commemorate my participation in the Be a Blessing Project?

A. A team of volunteers who have been very generous with their time and talent are working together to create a beautiful glass-encased scroll containing the names of each one of us who scribed our new Torah.  This permanent display will be given a prominent home at the synagogue.  Be sure to visit www.CBIbeablessing.org often to keep up to date as news and events unfold throughout the year.

 

PARTICIPATION

Q. Who may scribe in the People’s Torah?

A. All current Congregation Beth Israel members and Shlenker families are welcome – and invited – to scribe.  Let’s fill the Temple as if it were High Holy Days and create a shared memory of a lifetime.

Q. Must I be a member of Congregation Beth Israel to participate in the Be a Blessing Project?

A. Current Beth Israel members and Shlenker School families are most welcome to attend services, celebrations, socials and fill in a letter in the Torah.

Q. Is knowledge of Hebrew required to participate?

A. No, participation in the Be a Blessing Project does not require knowledge of Hebrew. The Sofer (Torah scribe) will write the letter with you and your family, hand in hand and he knows Hebrew, to be sure.

Q. Must I be Jewish to sign a letter?

A. Our people’s Torah project is a shared experience for all current Beth Israel members and Shlenker families.

Q. Is there a limit to how many people can write at one time?

A. Only one person or family will scribe at one time, and each individual or family may only sign up to scribe once.  Appointments will be available throughout the day the scribe is visiting our Temple.

 

PROJECT DATES, LOGISTICS & SCHEDULING

Q. What are the start and end dates of the Be a Blessing Project?

A. The project will last one year, beginning in December, 2013 and culminating at our Chanukah service in December, 2014.

Q. When are the scribing dates?

A. The sofer will be scribing throughout the year 2014. The following days have been confirmed and additional dates will be added in the fall.

Sunday    2/9/2014
Monday  2/10/2014
Sunday    3/9/2014
Monday  3/10/2014
Sunday    4/6/2014
Monday  4/7/2014
Sunday    5/4/2014
Monday  5/5/2014
Sunday    6/1/2013

Q. Where will the scribing events take place?

A. In the Sanctuary, or possibly the Chapel, depending on the day and other Temple and Shlenker events.

Q. On what days and times of the week will I be able to write a letter?

A. We will have several Sofer visits on Sunday/Mondays throughout 2014. The following days are confirmed and additional dates will be added in the fall:

Sunday    2/9/2014
Monday  2/10/2014
Sunday    3/9/2014
Monday  3/10/2014
Sunday    4/6/2014
Monday  4/7/2014
Sunday    5/4/2014
Monday  5/5/2014
Sunday    6/1/2014

Q. How do I register for a date and time to write my letter?

A. It’s easy and convenient – just register online.  If that’s not an option for you, call the Temple office at 713.771.2661 and someone will be happy to help you.

Q. Is there a limit to how many people can write at one time?

A. Only one person or family will scribe at one time, and each individual may only sign up to scribe once.  Appointments will be available throughout the day the scribe is visiting our Temple.

Q. I am never available on a Sunday. Will the Sofer be available any other days of the week?

A. No problem.  After most Sunday scribing events, the Sofer will conduct educational programs, as well as scribe on the following Monday.  Sign up for a Monday that works for you.

 

DEDICATION OPPORTUNITIES

Q. Does it cost money to fill in a letter?

A. No, scribing is offered to every member free of any donation. However, by also dedicating a letter, verse or chapter in our new Torah in memory or in honor of a loved one, or in honor of Beth Israel’s 160th Anniversary, you can help secure the future of Beth Israel. If you would like the Sofer to speak with you about your dedication portion when it’s your time to scribe, be sure to make your dedication prior to your scribing date.

Q. May I select the letter, chapter, verse I dedicate?

A. Yes, and the clergy and staff of Beth Israel and Sofer on Site are available to help you discover a dedication selection that resonates with you or honors a loved one.  To ask for assistance in your selection, email beablessing@beth-israel.org or call the Temple office at 713.771.6221.

Q. I would like to dedicate my letter. Is this possible?

A. Yes. Those who would like and are able to make a dedication contribution may choose from among several giving levels, each of which includes the opportunity, among other benefits, to dedicate some part of our new People’s Torah in honor or memory of a loved one or in honor of Beth Israel’s 160th Anniversary.  Everyone who makes a gift will have his/her dedication listed in the congregation’s permanent record/archive of this event.

Q. What kinds of dedications are permitted?

A. To allow everyone the ability to dedicate, no matter the level of contribution, a broad range of dedication opportunities have been established. You can find one that’s right for you.

Q. Does it cost money to dedicate a letter?

A. Yes, donations for a dedication begin at $18, though the scribing experience is free to all Beth Israel members and Shlenker families. Please view the opportunities to dedicate a Torah letter, verse or chapter, to commemorate your own commitment or in honor or memory of someone special to you.

 

CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL’S 160TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

Q. Besides our People’s Torah project, are there any other 160th Anniversary events?

A. Absolutely.  Every group, from Miriam Browning Jewish Learning Center to Sisterhood, is planning special 160th Anniversary commemorations, socials and learning events throughout the year.  Visit our events calendar frequently to find events, including dates and times and descriptions of the activities planned for you and your family and friends.

Q. How will Congregation Beth Israel use the funds raised through dedications made to our Be a Blessing 160th Anniversary celebration?

A. Great question, glad you asked.  While we are most fortunate that the staff and leadership we’ve entrusted as stewards of the Temple finances have managed our dues and contributions for a healthy, stable congregation, we face four critical needs:

  1. retire our long-term debt and eliminate interest costs from our operations budget;
  2. purchase the last remaining parcel of land adjoining our Antoine cemetery to allow Beth Israel’s cemetery capacity to fulfill our needs for another 75+ years;
  3. fund a critically-needed facilities maintenance fund for our aging campus  building needs; and
  4. grow our endowment, which by any standard is far too low for a congregation of our size.

 

EDUCATIONAL EVENTS

Q. What kind of educational programs are planned during the 160th Anniversary year?

A. Lots!  A special musical Shabbat will be our inaugural event on December 6th.    Then, we ring in the official anniversary year with a January 12th kick-off event, where we will hear from the Sofer, witness the first scribing ceremony and rotate through a variety of enlightening activity and learning stations designed to delight young and old alike.  On February 9th, a second group of congregants will scribe, and more educational events will be offered.  A team of volunteers are busy planning even more youth and adult learning activities throughout the year.  Please visit our events calendar often to find out what’s in store for you next!

 

CEREMONIAL AND CELEBRATION EVENTS

Q. My son or daughter will become a bar or bat mitzvah at Beth Israel sometime after December 2014. Will he or she be allowed to read from the new Torah during his or her ceremony?

A. First, mazel tov! As soon as the new Torah is dedicated, it will be read on every Shabbat morning including every bar or bat mitzvah.

Additionally, we are inviting all 2014 Beth Israel bar and bat mitzvah teens to submit a video of their final rehearsal of their Torah portion chanting for the Be a Blessing website, as well as participate in the many fun gatherings and social media events especially created for Beth Israel Teens for Torah during our anniversary year. Email us at beablessing@beth-israel.org if you would like to submit a 2014 bar/bat mitzvah rehearsal video clip.

Q. What other opportunities will exist to read from the new Torah?

A. Every effort will be made to read from the new Torah on the High Holidays and Festival holidays of Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot.

 

VOLUNTEERISM

Q. I would like to help make the Be a Blessing Project successful. What kind of volunteer opportunities exist?

A. Wonderful!  Those of us already rolling up our sleeves could really use your help.  Check out the Volunteers Needed section  to see all the jobs, big and small, where you can be a blessing on the team!  Then let us know which job interests you at beablessing@beth-israel.org.

 

FURTHER QUESTIONS

Q. Who should I call or email if I have more questions?

A. Email beablessing@beth-israel.org or call the Temple office at 713.771.6221.