At Beth Shalom, we house six Torah Scrolls that each reflect the diversity and richness of the Jewish experience. Four of the five scrolls in the main sanctuary are clothed in mantles designed by renowned Hebrew artist, Mordechai Rosenstein. On the High Holy Days, we replace these colorful mantles with white ones, also designed by Rosenstein, that come together with the following words: Levochein livavot b’yom din (The One who Knows our Hearts on the Days of Judgement.)
One of these Scrolls is our small and most precious one, rescued from the fires of the Shoah (Holocaust) during World War II. Together with hundreds of synagogues around the world, we house this Scroll on permanent loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust. In so doing, we affirm the sacred Jewish principle of Zachor / To Remember, and to never allow something similar to happen again (L’Olam Lo Od.)
Another one of our Scrolls is a Sephardic scroll housed in a large and ornate cylindrical case from which the Torah is read in an upright position. This differs greatly from the soft coverings of the Ashkenazi Scrolls which are laid horizontally on the lectern for chanting.
Our only Scroll not housed in our main sanctuary is in our portable sanctuary (aron ha’kodesh) in the Green Room. Currently, we use this each year during Sukkot, the harvest holiday of happiness and gratitude, and chant from it outside in the shade of our beautiful Sukkah. Hillel of LSU donated both this Torah Scroll as well as the Aron HaKodesh to Beth Shalom Synagogue in 1989. We often used this Scroll in the summer months, and its distinctive artistry and tight lettering are still a sight to behold today.
When Hurricane Rita hit in 2005 and caused major damage to the shul, we held High Holy Day Services at Jefferson Baptist Church next door, and brought this Scroll and Ark over there so we could still incorporate this critical element of prayer and communal Jewish life.
This video shows our Torahs in action during Simchat Torah 5779 (2018). Simchat Torah means “rejoicing in the Torah” and marks when we read the last Torah portion and the first Torah portion. Our Simchat Torah celebration is a joyful, vibrant party where in as many people carry and dance with a Torah scroll as possible. Children at Beth Shalom are given candy during the seventh blessing.