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After 435 Years, Edinburgh University Gets a Torah

After 435 Years, Edinburgh University Gets a Torah

More than 150 people to celebrate a first for a college campus in Scotland

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For the first time in the University of Edinburgh’s storied 435-year history, there will be a Torah scroll permanently housed on campus. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Kim Traynor)
For the first time in the University of Edinburgh’s storied 435-year history, there will be a Torah scroll permanently housed on campus. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Kim Traynor)

Students in Scotland are getting a gift—a substantial gift—right after Purim.

A new Torah is in the works for Jewish students at the University of Edinburgh, which is served by Chabad of Edinburgh, co-directed by Rabbi Pinny and Gitty Weinman.

“This will be the first and only Torah in Scotland dedicated for Jewish students,” the rabbi tells Chabad.org.

On March 19—one week after the Purim holiday commemorating the saving of the Jewish people in ancient Persia by Queen Esther—University of Edinburgh students and members of the broader community will join together to watch a scribe complete the final letters of the Torah scroll, and then celebrate with an LED glow show, music and refreshments.

More than 150 people are expected to attend the festivities. The University of Edinburgh dates back to 1582; it is the sixth oldest university in the English-speaking world.

“The students are very excited to be able to celebrate Jewish pride in Scotland’s capital city,” says Weinman, “especially during these challenging times in Europe,” referring to a surge of anti-Semitism and a spate of attacks, primarily in Western Europe.

Rabbi Pinny Weinman, co-director of Chabad of Edinburgh, holds the Torah for use by Jewish students at the university (Photo: Bais Yisroel Torah Gemach)
Rabbi Pinny Weinman, co-director of Chabad of Edinburgh, holds the Torah for use by Jewish students at the university (Photo: Bais Yisroel Torah Gemach)

Chabad serves the 1,000 or so Jewish residents, students included, who call Edinburgh home. The Weinmans also help fill the Jewish needs of the many tourists who pass through the second-largest city in the country (after Glasgow).

Until now, they have borrowed a Torah. But thanks to an initiative for Chabad on Campus emissaries, in partnership with the Brooklyn-based Beis Yisroel Torah Gemach and in coordination with Chabad on Campus International, their own is in the making. It comes as a result of donor Dani and Diana Sragowicz of Bal Harbour, Fla., in an effort to provide Torahs to Chabad Houses and start-up minyans in need of one.

In addition to the Scotland Torah, a shipment of Torahs went out two months ago to campus emissaries in North America.

“More Torahs on college campuses means more access for Jewish students to the words and wisdom of our heritage,” says Rabbi Yossy Gordon, executive vice president of the Chabad on Campus International.

The community will join together to watch a scribe complete the final letters of the scroll on March 19. (Photo: Bais Yisroel Torah Gemach)
The community will join together to watch a scribe complete the final letters of the scroll on March 19. (Photo: Bais Yisroel Torah Gemach)

The Beis Yisroel Gemach is a project of Merkos Suite 302 in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Overseen on a daily basis by Bentzion Chanowitz, it has, to date, organized 137 loans of more than 90 Torahs, mostly to Chabad emissaries. Many of the loans are of refurbished Torahs on a short-term basis, with the goal of getting permanent ones for the borrowers. Other Torahs are brand-new, sponsored by donors the world over. The very first Torah loaned out, notes Chanowitz, was one he inherited from his father.

More broadly, loans were made recently to Argentina, China, Toronto, Hawaii, Nebraska and to an Israeli kibbutz. A short-term loan was also given to a Chabad emissary from Lod, Israel, who accompanied hundreds of Jews to Zanzibar in East Africa, where they got to hear from the Torah while training for a month in the banking industry.

Related Article:

International Arrivals: 8 Torah Scrolls Dedicated to Victims of Terror in Israel

These Torahs were commissioned in honor of the three Israeli teenage boys abducted and killed by Palestinians in June 2014. Holding them, from left, are Yankel Yankelowitz; Bentzion Chanowitz, who runs the Torah Gemach, a project of Merkos Suite 302; Yerachmiel Paskin; and sofer (Torah scribe) Rabbi Daniel Dovid Dahan.
These Torahs were commissioned in honor of the three Israeli teenage boys abducted and killed by Palestinians in June 2014. Holding them, from left, are Yankel Yankelowitz; Bentzion Chanowitz, who runs the Torah Gemach, a project of Merkos Suite 302; Yerachmiel Paskin; and sofer (Torah scribe) Rabbi Daniel Dovid Dahan.

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