2015-10-28 / Voice at the Shore

A joyous Simchat Torah at the Shore

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore correspondent


Rabbi David Weis shows B’nai Mitzvah students where their Torah portions can be found in the fully unrolled Torah during Simchat Torah services at Congregation Beth Israel in Northfield. Rabbi David Weis shows B’nai Mitzvah students where their Torah portions can be found in the fully unrolled Torah during Simchat Torah services at Congregation Beth Israel in Northfield. Jews at synagogues throughout the area celebrated Simchat Torah earlier this month by dancing with the Torah and sharing festive holiday meals. Many congregations also added their own unique twist to the festivities.

“A Simchat Torah of unity”—That is how Rabbi Yaacov Orimland describes the Simchat Torah celebration held by Young Israel of Margate earlier this month, where Young Israel welcomed members of Beth El Synagogue in Margate to join them in davening, eating and dancing with the Torah. “You can’t find a better time for unity than Simchat Torah. Having the two congregations gather together with the Torah was the most beautiful thing.”

Roughly 80 people—about 40 from Beth El, 30 from Young Israel, and a group of 15 young men from Yeshiva University in New York City—came together for the celebration, which ended with everyone dancing with the Torah on Ventnor Avenue in Margate outside of Young Israel until 11:30 p.m.


At Congregation Beth Israel in Northfield, the Torah is unrolled through the aisles of the sanctuary, with congregants holding it up and B’nai Mitzvah kids standing near their Torah portions, before the Torah is rerolled to the beginning. At Congregation Beth Israel in Northfield, the Torah is unrolled through the aisles of the sanctuary, with congregants holding it up and B’nai Mitzvah kids standing near their Torah portions, before the Torah is rerolled to the beginning. How did the two synagogues decide to celebrate together? Orimland said it started with an informal conversation between him and Rabbi Kraus. Somehow, the question of “What’s your shul doing for Simchat Torah?” grew into a joint celebration. “I’m not even sure how it came up, but it was beautiful,” said Orimland. “All of their members left saying we have to do this again.”

Chabad makes a tradition of celebrating Simchat Torah at the same time it’s celebrated in Israel, said Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport. Its “Unite and Dance with Israel” celebration takes place the night before Simchat Torah is normally celebrated here. This year 150 people attended.

“With everything happening in Israel, with all the violence starting just before the holiday, it was a nice way to unite with Israel during this time,” noted Rapoport. “One hafakot [dance] was dedicated to our brothers and sisters in the holy land, where we sang all classic Israeli songs and all the people who held the Torah were originally from Israel. It was very meaningful.”

In addition, Chabad held numerous other events—which included worship services, lots of food, dancing, and the presentation of a new Torah donated by the Gurwicz family—on Monday and Tuesday as well.

Congregation Beth Israel in Northfield has a unique Simchat Torah tradition. During the worship service, after the last chapter of the Torah is read, the Torah is unrolled through the aisles of the sanctuary, with congregants standing and supporting it throughout the room. Once it is fully unrolled, B’nai Mitzah kids are directed to stand behind their Torah portions. The Torah is then re-rolled back to the beginning. Traditional dancing with the Torah follows the service.

“We started this tradition three years ago,” said Beth Israel’s Rabbi David

Weis. “We were sitting around in a staff meeting and I was teaching about

Simchat Torah. I suggested that something is different each time a different child stands before the Torah, that the words take on a different nuance. I realized that this is a great message for the congregation and for our upcoming B’nai Mitzvah and their families to hear. So we tried it and it was a powerful moment.” .

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