Shaya Tenenboim, rabbi at Chabad of the Emerald Coast, said his synagogue's recent addition brought pride to the local Jewish community.
On Sunday, members and visitors gathered at Chabad of the Emerald Coast during a dedication ceremony to welcome a new Torah Scroll with music, dancing and dinner. Tenenboim addressed the dozens in attendance on the importance of the event, and the impact the scroll would have on the local synagogue.
"In this process, we've see great help from above," he said, and added that the Torah is the keystone to all synagogues, and that before this one was introduced, his congregation had been borrowing two different ones. "We've seen people who excitedly donate large amounts to buy it, and many people who come to celebrate the welcoming.'
He said the Torah was composed of the five books of Moses, which Jews believe were given to Moses by God at Mount Sinai. All Torah Scrolls are handwritten in Hebrew, he said, and each is word-for-word the same around the world.
According to Tenenboim, his synagogue's Torah took about a year to transcribe. It began in Israel, where a majority of it was written, before making its way to New York for some finishing touches.
During the ceremony, members were invited to help Brooklyn, New York's Rabbi Yaakov Banon finish the the last portion of script. As each approached the table to observe the displayed Torah, they handed Banon the quill for him to inscribe text in their honor — a process Tenenboim said allowed them to create an even deeper connection to the Torah Scroll.
"The Torah is the essence of the Jewish community," he said. "All our prayers are ascending through the ark (a cabinet-like case). Inside the ark are the Torah Scrolls, which we take out in a special ceremony ... (and for) specific days and occasions."
After the dedication, Tenenboim returned the Torah to its container, then he and those attending paraded it around the surrounding street in celebration.
Rabbis from areas including Panama City, New Orleans and Brooklyn attended the celebration.
"We have no doubt that this new Torah Scroll will bring new unity in our community (and) new excitement in being Jewish," he said.