More than 300 people braved near record-breaking heat to welcome the first Torah scroll to the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in the Long Island hamlet of Merrick, N.Y.

The Sunday celebration began at the gazebo outside of the town’s train station with a completion ceremony presided over by a ritual scribe. A procession of residents and local politicians carried the scroll, donated by the gewirtz family in loving memory of Sharon Faye (Fayga Sarah) gewirtz, the four blocks down the road to the Chabad House.

According to participants, the festivities were an inspiring way to lead into the holiday of Shavuot, which began Sunday night. The holiday marks the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai.

Susan Litman, 60, said that she especially enjoyed a scribe’s demonstration of how to make the parchment for a Torah scroll, and how to write the letters with a feather quill.

“It was very nice,” said the woman, who joined her husband Nat for the entire procession in the blazing heat. Even though “it was a very hot heat wave, especially for June.”

According to data provided by the National Weather Service, the high temperature of 92 degrees recorded at Long Island Islip Macarthur Airport was three degrees shy of the all-time high for the day, set in 1999. Sunday was the second day of a four-day heat wave that claimed the lives of 17 people up and down the Eastern seaboard.

During the completion ceremony, a scribe helped community members write the last few letters in the scroll. The Litmans dedicated a verse in the Torah; Nat Litman, a 64-year-old part-time speech therapist for preschoolers with autism, wrote the letter bet in the holy scroll.

More than 300 men, women and children turned out for the celebratory parade through the streets of the Long Island hamlet.
More than 300 men, women and children turned out for the celebratory parade through the streets of the Long Island hamlet.

Among the local VIPs who attended were Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, Town Clerk Mark Bonilla and Nassau County Legislator David Denenberg.

“It was very inspiring,” Jeff Neckonoff, 42, who provided the musical entertainment, said of the celebration. “The people were great, there was a lot of energy.”

Co-directed by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Shimon and Chana Kramer since 2006, the Center for Jewish Life sponsors classes and individual Jewish learning opportunities, and religious services on special occasions. In addition, the Kramers provide one-on-one tutoring for area children, holiday programming, and Friday night dinners for Jewish residents of Merrick and the nearby communities of Bellmore and Wantagh.

The center’s Shavuot service Monday afternoon featured the first reading from the new Torah scroll, as well as an ice-cream sundae party. (Dairy foods are traditionally eaten on the holiday.)

For his part, Shimon Kramer termed the Torah dedication “a very auspicious day for the Jews of Merrick and Bellmore.”

“The entire community came to greet the Torah,” he said.