When Gina Mulligan of Folsom, Calif., found out that her community would be commissioning a Torah scroll of its own, she called her mother. And now her mother’s got a plane ticket to visit the Sacramento suburb to see the big event for herself.

“She’ll be flying in from Ohio to see this,” Mulligan said of the Nov. 18 affair at the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Community Center of Folsom. “I told her that it’s so rare, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

After some two years of deliberation, the Chabad center, which had considered purchasing a refurbished Torah to save money, found a primary funder and other sponsors to cover the bulk of the extra expense.

“Now we have most of it covered, we’re ready to move ahead; we’re going to start writing a Torah,” said co-director Rabbi Yossi Grossbaum. People are excited to be connected to their Jewish roots in this way, he added, explaining that he tells people of the Torah’s significance and how it has been recorded accurately throughout thousands of generations.

“You pick up a Torah written in South Africa, a Torah written in Israel and one written anywhere else in the world, and they’re identical,” he commented. “Just seeing this actual tangible connection to their heritage – it’s very moving for people and means a lot to them.”

The commissioning will include a demonstration from a ritual scribe and plenty of hands-on activities, such as the chance for participants to practice writing their Hebrew name on a piece of parchment with a special feather pen.

Mulligan hopes adults and children alike will be able to take away the importance of tradition and keeping the traditions alive.

“The Torah is a reminder of family values, the tenets of working together and looking past differences,” she said. “It reminds us of the basics.”

It’ll be a treat for all generations, she stressed, as instead of using the Torah on loan from Chabad of Riverside, the community will get its own. An area family provided half of the funding, and organizers expect the project to be finished in time for the holiday of Shavuot next spring.

Community members in Folsom turn out for a Chanukah menorah lighting.
Community members in Folsom turn out for a Chanukah menorah lighting.

Grossbaum, who moved to the community with his wife Goldie and their children in August 2007, said he’s looking forward to the community building on the sense of permanence that an owned Torah will provide.

Since the center currently rents its space, the scroll will be “the first thing we own,” remarked the rabbi.

For Miles Feinberg of El Dorado Hills, the new scroll will provide a unifying and central focus during services; the commissioning marks an important next step in the center’s growth, he said.

Involved at the Chabad center for the past few years since his wife took part in a new-mother class, he said he’s enjoyed being part of the institution as it’s grown from a space in the Grossbaums’ house to a storefront location. He looks forward to seeing it expanding even further and developing more roots in the community.

“This cements that we’re here,” he said. “I think it will draw us together more, and strengthen the community. It will be fantastic.”

He’s taking his son Noah, 6, to see the Torah-writing process start.

“We’re going to get to experience it together,” he said, adding that he’s glad Noah will get an appreciation for the magnitude of the Torah so early on. He hopes it will make an impression that sticks with him, such as the way that some community members, when buying pieces of the Torah to be written in their honor, pick their Bar Mitzvah portions. “I think it’s easy to take for granted; now all of us won’t.”