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A New Song, A New Light
by Judy Lash Balint
Israel Insider
December 2, 2002

Moshe Abramovich the sofer (scribe) carried out his painstaking work oblivious to the music and chatter going on around him. Abramovich was seated in the Bayit of the Shir Hadash synagogue in Nachlaot, putting the finishing touches to a Torah scroll commissioned in memory of Jacob and Hilda Schulder, longtime members of New York City's Fifth Avenue Synagogue.

The new Torah, adorned with an exquisite set of Eytz Chayim (wooden rollers) inlaid with pearl and silver, was donated by Diane and Bob Abrams of Manhattan, the daughter and son-in-law of the Schulders. The Schulders grandaughter, Rachel and her husband Rabbi Ian Pear, are the driving force behind the fast-growing, innovative Shir Hadash congregation located in the rapidly gentrifying inner city neighborhood of Nachlaot.
The dedication event took place on the evening of one of the darkest days of the current war against the Jews. Just a few hours earlier, three Israelis and eight Kenyans were murdered at a resort in Mombassa, Kenya and another six Jews were killed while waiting to vote at Likud party headquarters in Beit Shean. A planeload of 271 Israelis miraculously escaped harm after two missiles were fired at the aircraft on its departure from Kenya.

But in the alleys of one of Jerusalem's historic neighborhoods, an area dotted with intimate synagogues reflecting the origins of their members, the joyous sounds of rejoicing over the addition of another Torah to the world pushed away the darkness.

A beaming Bob Abrams pointed out that his grandfather shared the sofer's name--it was abbreviated to Abrams in his father's generation. As various friends were honored with writing one letter of the Torah under Moshe's watchful eye, a klezmer band provided a backdrop to the proceedings. Spontaneous dancing broke out as those assembled watched and waited for the final letter to be drawn by Moshe's elegant quill pen.

Some of the people in the room were visitors from the Abram's New York congregation, Kehillath Jeshurun. Many were relatives of Diane Abrams and the Schulders--a family connected in many tangible ways to Jerusalem. Diane Abram's great great grandfather is buried on the Mount of Olives.

A trumpet blast greeted the announcement that Reb Moshe had finished his work, and the Torah scroll was lovingly placed under its dark blue velvet covering and escorted under a chupa into the street for the short walk to Shir Hadash, it's new home. Two "old" Torah scrolls already in use at the synagogue were brought out to greet the new one.

The klezmer musicians led the way, their lively tunes piercing the dark mood. Neighborhood people stopped to watch and smile as the procession of almost one hundred celebrants wound their way through the narrow streets. "The words are so comforting," sighed one woman as the group passed by singing of God's love for the Jewish people.

The Shir Hadash synagogue is unique in the neighborhood. It's not one of the beautiful, century-old, custom-built shuls with chandeliers and an ornate ark--Shir Hadash makes its home in a bomb shelter, down a flight of steps, with low ceilings and unadorned walls.

Inside, there's more dancing with the new Torah and a few speeches by rabbis associated with the Schulder, Abrams and Pear families. Rabbi Sol Roth of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, tells us about the Schulders and their quiet commitment to Torah. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, rosh yeshiva of institutions where both Rachel and Ian Pear studied, spoke of the eternity of Torah and Jerusalem. He pointed out the significance of the Abrams donation of a Torah scroll in memory of the Schulders, which would be used by the Jerusalem community created by their grandaughter and her husband. "How very fitting that this Torah in memory of the Schulders, people of the highest ethical standrads, will lift the spirits of the people who daven at Shir Hadash--it will inspire the lives of the men and women who worship here," concluded Rabbi Riskin.

"I couldn't think of a better place for this Torah," Diane Abrams said.