Jewish residents from across Arkansas gathered in Little Rock to celebrate the first-ever Torah scroll to be written in the state. More than 100 people lined up at the capital’s Center for Jewish Life to write a letter in the Torah during the Sunday ceremony, which Rabbi Pinchus Ciment, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Arkansas, said was made all the more special by the fact that it occurred during a year of hakhel.

The once-in-seven-years occurrence was marked during the time of the Holy Temple by a gathering of men, women and children for a special Torah reading in Jerusalem. The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, stressed in his teachings on the subject that in modern times, that spirit of unity can and should be accomplished by Jews everywhere in the world.

“We too can make public and personal gatherings today that are of great importance and extremely meaningful,” said Ciment. “In light of this unique year, this powerful gathering of our community for the purpose of continuing the eternal tradition of our heritage with the writing of a Torah scroll is truly historic.”

Although a Jewish presence in Arkansas can be dated to at least the mid-19th century, locals believe the Torah scroll is a first for their community.

A ritual scribe, who was on hand for the event, will now spend months writing out the Torah in a process that hasn’t changed for thousands of years. He was commissioned by the city’s Itzkowitz Family in memory of Bob Itzkowitz, who for close to 60 years could be seen at his North Little Rock shop.

Ciment added that the Torah will also be dedicated to the lives of those murdered late last month at the Chabad House in Mumbai, India.

Said the rabbi: “We will utilize the strength of this Torah to promote harmony and peace.”