Jewish Herald Voice
Dozens of Jewish community members joyfully marched with a police escort near The Galleria on Sunday, Aug. 15, welcoming a new special member to Chabad of Uptown.
A brand-new Torah – commissioned in Houston, written in Israel and dedicated in memory of a dear friend in South Africa – made its way down the 610 feeder to Westcreek Lane and to its eventual home on Bettis Drive.
“With great pomp and fanfare we completed the Torah and welcomed it to our shul,” Chabad of Uptown Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff told the JHV.
“All the onlookers were waving, smiling and dancing to the music and really enjoyed the whole scene. It was a clash of a lot of cultures.”
The Torah was dedicated by Chabad of Uptown member Maurice Purcell, in memory of his lifelong friend, Ronnie Levy, who passed away in January.
“It was very emotional,” Purcell told the JHV. “He and I were not only friends, but we were very close friends. We shared the same values.
“I’m a philanthropist, and one of my missions is to help the young Jewish people, who need our help in understanding our history and how blessed we are to be Jews.”
The idea of commissioning the Torah happened a year ago when Rabbi Lazaroff and Purcell discussed many of the challenges of the pandemic.
“There is a famous story about an epidemic in Mezibush in 1752,” Rabbi Lazaroff said. “The Baal Shem Tov told the community that the way to squelch the epidemic is by Torah study, tehillim and especially the writing of a Torah.
“So, we commissioned a brand-new Torah from the beginning, and the intent was, once we were able to see each other again, we would be able to do the completion. With the vaccine now rolled out, people are more comfortable getting together.”
About 60-70 people attended the event, with many of them getting the opportunity to work with the scribe to help inscribe the final letters of the Torah.
This Torah is the second one Purcell has dedicated to Chabad of Uptown. In 2014, Purcell acquired one from The Ponevech shul in Cape Town, South Africa.
The older synagogue was in need of several repairs and ended up trading one of its many Torahs to Purcell and Levy, who arranged to fix up the shul’s maintenance needs.
Chabad of Uptown welcomed the older Torah – with both Purcell and Levy in attendance – in 2014.
Now, seven years later, Rabbi Lazaroff praised the newest addition to the Chabad family.
“It is a very convenient size – it is large enough where the words are legible, but the scroll is a small, light Torah – very easy to handle,” the rabbi said.
Chabad of Uptown will return one of its Torahs which was on loan, now having three Torahs of its own, which is needed several times throughout the year.
On Sunday near The Galleria, it was all about celebrating.
“We really had a lovely day,” Purcell said. “The parade was nice and when we got to the shul, we really enjoyed ourselves. That is what it is all about.”
And, on a day that saw heavy rainfall hit the Houston area, the timing worked out great.
“It was pretty wild,” Rabbi Lazaroff said. “We were really uncertain what was going to happen with the parade and the rain. But, the rain held up and as soon as we entered the shul, it really started pouring. G-d was watching for sure.