"The Torah reveals a beautiful way to aspire to and live a life of holiness through the various religious observances, ethical standards of conduct and justice, and the bounds of a civil society that God reveals in the Torah's words," said Rabbi Robert Lennick, spiritual leader of Congregation Etz Chaim in Bentonville.
The Torah, the first five books of the Bible for Jews, Christians and Muslims, begins with God's creation of the world and ends with the death of Moses, Lennick
"Along the way, the Jews enter into a covenant with God initiated with Abraham and passed down to his
son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob.
Jacob's descendants, the Israelites, endure 400 years of Egyptian slavery; witness God's liberating power in their Exodus from Egypt; wander, wonder, question, rebel and re-affirm their faith many times; then receive God's incarnation of the law on Mount Sinai," Lennick
arrived in Northwest Arkansas nearly a year ago to guide Congregation Etz Chaim
, currently in its 11th year.
Through Project 613, Lennick
wants the congregation to come together "to feel close to the tradition and give them a purpose to repair the world around them - which is what Jewish people are called to do."
also wants to focus on the continuity between generations to make the world a better place.
"No one's going to repair the world for us," he
Project 613 also includes lessons for the community to act as a whole, as told through the Holocaust.
"Don't just accept what's going on - like the Holocaust or the terror currently caused by the Islamic State," Lennick
The Torah scroll coming to the Bentonville congregation has been traced - through its style of calligraphy - to Czechoslovakia, near Prague, Lennick
"I know for sure it's 200 years old," he
As the Nazis overtook Jewish villages during World War II, they confiscated the Torahs for a "Museum of an Extinct Race," planned by Adolph Hitler, chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and leader of Nazi Germany.
But some scrolls were hidden away by members of the local communities.
"I think this one was rescued," Lennick
"In some small village, some righteous person or some courageous person saved the scroll for the synagogue."
From there, Lennick
thinks the scroll passed through many private hands before it was given to a synagogue in Florida.
on Site obtained the ancient document.
"We felt this (historic story) just added so many important levels of meaning to this project," Lennick
"It's a way that everybody can participate, and our community can become a living symbol of what it means to stand up to hate - in all forms, in all generations, in all times," Lennick
"Bringing the scroll back to life - pulled almost literally out of the ashes - declares the whole community stands against hate, violence, racism, prejudice and all forms of oppression," he
"It's very powerful."
Leaving a mark
Members of Etz Chaim and the entire Northwest Arkansas community are eligible to help restore this ancient piece.
For a donation to the congregation, a single person can make an appointment for a private 10 minutes with the scribe.
Each can write a single letter, or families and other groups can write entire passages, Lennick
"People will say, 'I don't know how to do it,' but the scribe (Druin) will write it with you," Lennick
Once completely repaired, the Torah will be used in regular worship in the synagogue at Etz Chaim, Lennick
"It also can be shown and studied in the community.
It is considered a community scroll," he