Congregation’s Original Torah Discovered

SCRANTON — The ink is faded, the parchment not glazed, but the words are as meaningful as ever.

This Torah from Germany dates back more than 150 years, a hidden treasure, containing the first five books of the bible.

It was discovered a few years ago in a closet at Temple Hesed in Scranton. But it wasn’t until this spring that Rabbi Daniel Swartz had a scribe, or Torah writer, determine the scroll’s age and origin, an age and origin that matched that of Temple Hesed’s first congregation.

“There’s at least a good possibility that they brought it with them when they came here and that this was the first Torah scroll used. So that was a great discovery by itself,” said Rabbi Swartz.

One of the ways people at the synagogue were able to tell where the Torah came from is from the calligraphy itself. There are some letters that are specific to Germany.

“Just like you can do handwriting analysis to see did so-and-so write this, there were schools, you know, the scribes were taught to write the way that their teacher wrote, and so you can sort of say ‘oh, this is the region it came from,'” said the Rabbi.

But a Torah can’t last 150 years without a little wear and tear. Rabbi Swartz says restoration of the scrolls will cost $3,000.

The congregation will use temple donations to fix it up.

It should be ready in time for Rabbi Swartz’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in September and Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, a special Torah for special events.

“It’s as if it’s come to the light of day for the first time after having been in an archaeological find or something and to be part of that discovery is very exciting,” said Rabbi Swartz.