Teen dedicates Torah to Long Beach community
The Long Beach Jewish community received a much-needed lift Sunday with a Torah dedication and parade meant to inspire and revive an area that lost several of its holy scrolls in superstorm Sandy.
Amid the festivities, celebrants wrote the final Hebrew words on the Torah.
"We've been suffering five months now since the hurricane brought great devastation to our community," said Rabbi Eli Goodman of BACH Jewish Center, which is affiliated with Chabad. "But today we're writing a new Torah to show a sign of renewal and revival of our community."
The half-mile march from the Allegria Hotel to the Jewish center at 210 Edwards Blvd. was in honor of Hudson Kaylie, 13, who celebrated his bar mitzvah in Israel a few months ago and dedicated the Torah to his community.
Several Long Beach synagogues were severely damaged and five or six Torahs were lost during Sandy.
While Hudson's Torah was already being crafted when the storm struck, he and his family dedicated it to the area.
"I thought it was a great idea . . . especially after all the devastation and destruction. Everything just fell into place," said Hudson's mother, Roberta Kaylie of Atlantic Beach.
Hudson Kaylie said he's been wanting to "celebrate" this event for a long time.
During the parade, many members of the community danced, waved flags and at one point hoisted Hudson upon their shoulders while singing along to "David Melech Yisrael," a traditional song about the biblical King David.
"It's a blessing," Michael Stein, 42, of Woodmere, said. "Most kids want gifts for their bar mitzvah. But this kid is giving back for future generations."
Before the march, hundreds of people lined up inside the hotel to inscribe the final Hebrew letters of the Torah using a quill pen.
State Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) took part in the celebration.
"It's about people helping people," he said. "This is a happy and joyous occasion."
"This is a beautiful event and I'm glad the celebration is taking place in a community hit hard by the storm," Shaina Rosenfeld, 27, of Brooklyn, said. "I just want to share the joy of the event with people I care about."
Goodman said the Torah's dedication marked a new day.
"The ocean flooded our synagogues, flooded our homes and just about everything in our community and now we are starting a brand new era . . . We are going to be back and better than ever," Goodman said.