Quincy News

Torah from Temple B'nai Sholom given to new congregation in Unna, Germany

Carla Gordon, a trustee of the shuttered Temple B’nai Sholom, stands with a Torah donated by the temple to a new synagogue for the Jewish community in Unna, Germany. | Submitted Photo
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 10, 2019 12:01 am

QUINCY -- A Torah from the shuttered Temple B'Nai Sholom has found a new home in Germany.

Temple trustee Carla Gordon presented the Torah last month to a new synagogue for the Jewish community in Unna, a city of some 59,000 in North Rhine-Westphalia.

"The whole thing has been a labor of love," Gordon said. "I'm truly happy because our Torah has found a home."

The Jewish community haKochaw, or "the star," serves the Unna area and converted a former church into its synagogue, which was dedicated on July 4.

"They really brought a lot of the 21st Century into the building," Gordon said, with touches ranging from 12 stained glass windows, stretching nearly floor to ceiling and representing the 12 tribes of Israel, to LED lights representing the night sky over Jerusalem at the time of the dedication.

But the new synagogue also draws from the past with the Torah from the temple which was the oldest continually operating in the state of Illinois and the second oldest west of the Allegheny Mountains when it closed in May after battling dwindling numbers and rising maintenance costs.

Gordon oversaw the donation after meeting the wife of the congregation's cantor while at a Friday night Shabbat service during a 2017 trip to Germany and was the temple's sole witness to a "small but very special" historical event.

"From today, your Torah starts its own journey within the walls of your synagogue," Gordon said in German as the last of 13 speakers during an opening ceremony for the synagogue. "From generation to generation, may it have a loving home, and may its storytelling be read for years to come. May this Torah have a place of honor and its roots not be forgotten with time."

A procession, led by the synagogue's rabbi and cantor, carried the Quincy Torah and a second Torah into the new space.

Gordon walked in the procession under a chuppah, or canopy, held by four young members of the Jewish community, while another man carried the 22-pound Quincy Torah and a six-piece brass band followed the group.

"At the outer doors of the synagogue, the Quincy Torah was passed to me," Gordon said. "It was my first glimpse of the full entrance. We have such an old and venerable building in Quincy, and now I'm looking at something for the 21st Century The juxtaposition of the two was not lost on me."

She carried the Torah into the sanctuary, stopping as the cantor sang a prayer in Hebrew and again as a psalm was sung, then watching as it was placed into the ark at a key point in the service. Representatives from the larger faith community and government spoke to welcome the new synagogue.

"Most of the congregants are Ukrainian," Gordon said. "Most of the new synagogues are being opened in areas being settled by Ukrainian Jews or Russian Jews. Primarily the guests were German, but there's a great deal of anti-Semitism throughout Germany, France and Belgium."

Gordon presented the congregation's rabbi with a copy of B'Nai Sholom's deconsecration program, a photo of the congregation, photos of the temple building, copies of her remarks in German and English and gifts including a talus, or prayer shawl, and two kippot, or yarmulke, to be presented during the first bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah.

Gordon herself turned into a curiosity after the formal ceremony.

"They wanted to know who this American was who brought a Torah all the way from the middle of the United States in a little town called Quincy," Gordon said.

"I am merely an emissary, bringing to you one of our most precious gifts," she said in her remarks. "It will be for all time a link from our congregation to your congregation."


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