On the 8th of May, 2019, Bnei Sefarad Reform congregation of Valencia, Spain celebrated with great joy and much excitement the donation of the Torah scroll written in Sephardic script, made by the congregation Shir Ami, Newtown, PA, USA.
The president of Shir Ami, Sharon Benoff and her husband Jack, came to Valencia to pass the Torah and also brought the donation of mahzorim for the High Holidays.
On the day of the ceremony the members of the WUPJ Jewish music cruise on Iberia led by Rabbis Daniel Freelander and Joe Black joined us in Valencia to share this joyous and historic moment of bringing the scroll written by a Sephardi back to Spain.
Rabbi Alona Lisitsa, the EBD (European Beit Din) sponsoring rabbi for conversions in Iberia, flew from Israel to lead the ceremony.
Bnei Sefarad is a young, almost 5-year-old, Reform congregation started by a group of eight volunteers led by Yosef Fraile, their current president.
The ceremony was very emotional and meaningful for all its participants. “How good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together”(Psalm 133: 1). We have been a very diverse group truly representing “kibutz galuyut”, the people of Israel gathered around the joy of Torah and generosity of giving.
We have lit the memorial candle and honored Israeli fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism all over the world by the minute of silence.
The Torah reading from the weekly portion of Kedushim including the verses, “You shall be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy” and “Love your fellow as yourself” (Leviticus 19:2, 18), could not be a better guidance for this unique moment. The holiness is neither intrinsic nor inherent; it is reached through love, respect, responsibility towards the other, through the mizvot between God and human and mizvot between human and other human.
Rabbi Freelander, who was a match-maker for the Torah donation, has blessed Bnei Sefarad on behalf of the WUPJ.
The ceremony was followed by the visit to Sagunto, a nearby town where was one of the biggest and most important juderias in Spain. The whole delegation was welcomed by the mayor of the town, Quico Fernandez.
We all felt as members of one big Reform family and as Rabbi Freelander said we all hope that with the return of the Torah, Valencia would become once again city of Torah scholars.
Photos: William Cartiff
About the author:
Born in Russia, Rabbi Alona Lisitsa lives in Israel and
she serves congregations across the Iberian Peninsula.