July 28, 2006
As Hezbollah missiles continue to rain down on Israeli cities, hundreds of college students have undertaken the challenge of sponsoring the writing of a Torah scroll “as a tangible expression of our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.”

"We want to send a very strong message that says we in the United States are standing together – especially the youth on our campuses"

By logging on to the Unity Torah project’s Web site, www.unitytorah.com, college students from all over the world can purchase a letter in the new Torah for $1 each. The completed scroll – all 304,805 letters of it – will be sent to an academic institution in Israel upon its completion by a scribe in November. In less than one week, more than 500 letters have been purchased by students representing more than 40 campuses.

The project is the brainchild of Rabbi Eitan and Gitty Webb, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries at Princeton University in New Jersey.

“What’s the best way to help what’s going on in Israel?” posed the rabbi. “We know we can give money and make a difference in various ways. But we want to send a very strong message that says we in the United States are standing together – especially the youth on our campuses.”

According to Webb, organizers are relying mainly on word of mouth, as evidenced from a slew of e-mails from campus emissaries to their students in the past few days.

“The Kabbalah teaches that G‑d, the Torah and the Jewish people are one. Uniting as many Jews as possible in one Torah helps to spiritually unite and empower the Jewish people,” Rabbi Yossi and Chanie Serebryanski of Chabad at Denver University told students this week. “During the troubled times we are now experiencing in Israel, we ask you to encourage as many of your Jewish friends as possible to participate in this awesome undertaking.”

Standing as Equals

Looking to the future and the hoped for conclusion to the current conflict, Webb said: “The message forever will be, ‘In 2006, we came together.’”

Webb said that the point of the effort is not the money, but the unity engendered when so many participate as equals.

“Every person is going to be involved with this at an equal level of one dollar,” he said. Even more, he continued, the hope is to boost the morale of embattled Israelis, who will see the outpouring of support across the globe.

Similar unification efforts have been initiated in the past, according to Rabbi Moshe C. Dubrowski, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based coordinator of the Chabad on Campus International Foundation, which is spearheading and underwriting the Web site and e-mail campaign. More recently, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries throughout the world have been encouraging parents to buy Torah letters for their young children in the merit of Jewish solidarity, “but this is the first attempt to write such a Torah specifically to unite Jewish college students,” said Dubrowski.

Rabbi Dov Wagner, Chabad campus director at the University of Southern California, attributed the impetus to a Torah campaign initiated by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, during Israel’s first war in Lebanon in1982.

“Many times in the past, the Rebbe spoke about ways to create more unity among the Jewish people,” explained Wagner. “One of the ways of doing that, he said, is through fulfilling the Biblical commandment to write a Torah scroll letter by letter. Especially when negative things happen, this is a great way to express the joint commitment of Jews standing together to express unity, and looking to find a way to connect spiritually.”

When the Torah is finished and delivered to Israel, said Webb, documentation of all those who purchased letters will accompany it. Participants currently can see their names scrolled across the top of the project’s Web site.

“Anyone in Israel will see a tangible expression of college youth’s solidarity with the people of Israel,” he said. “Every person who buys a letter will have their names up there in lights.”

Looking to the future and the hoped for conclusion to the current conflict, Webb said: “The message forever will be, ‘In 2006, we came together.’”