Members of Bethlehem Hebrew Congregation (BHC) welcome noted rabbi and Torah scribe (sofer) Levi Selwyn to BHC at 12:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 10. During his visit, he will inspect BHC’s five Torah scrolls, make small repairs as needed, provide information about the age and origin of each scroll, and possibly identify the original scribes. This is a unique event in the 95-year history of the Bethlehem Hebrew Congregation.

The Torah, the Five Books of Moses, is the holiest book of the Jews. This precious document contains the basics of all religious teachings, laws, traditions and customs, responsibilities and prohibitions of Jewish daily activities and relationships of life. The weekly Sabbath reading is described as the crown jewel of the Sabbath service. During the reading, congregants learn through the Torah’s stories and poetry. In many synagogues, Torah is read during three or four weekly services as well. Torah scrolls throughout the world are all written in exactly the same way as they were 3000 years ago.

Torahs must be hand-written by a specially trained and certified scribe (sofer) who must know and follow all of the strict laws regarding lettering size and style, and column layout. The sofer must also know how to mix the special black ink for the lettering and how to prepare the reeds or feather quills (usually turkey or goose feathers). Because the text is sacred and requires intense focus, no illustrations or artistic letter decorations are permitted on the Torah passages. A sofer might spend eight months to a full year to complete a Torah scroll. A single incorrect, missing or misshapen letter will invalidate the Torah scroll

Full information about the creation of Torah scrolls can be found on Chabad.org or myjewishlearning.com.

Rabbi Levi Selwyn, born in London, England, attended the local Jewish school and the Yeshivah Gedolah in Hampstead. At the age of 18, he arrived in the United States and entered the Rabbinical College of America in New Jersey.

     As part of his rabbinical training, he taught in communities in France and the USA and assisted in the development of educational programs. In 1999, he traveled to Sydney, Australia, where he attained his rabbinical ordination.

    In 2000, he became Chief Rabbi of Newtown Synagogue in Sydney. He then returned to the USA with his wife and daughter, and they settled in Long Beach, California where he served as Director of the Hebrew School and Youth Programming for the Shul by the Shore.

     Selwyn has been a member of Sofer on Site since 2011 and serves as the educational director of many of the outreach and educational programs. He is known as a master teacher with passion to motivate students and share his keen sense of humor.

We invite members of the public to share our experience with Rabbi Levi Selwyn as he is engaged in the ancient biblical art of analyzing and repairing our antique Torah scrolls.

Visit during the afternoon while he is working and stay for conversation in a Q and A session scheduled for 5 to 6 p.m.

This is a rare event and of great importance in a Jewish community. For more detailed information, contact David Goldstone, BHC President at davegoldstone1@gmail.com or 1-516-592-1462, or Emily Cowan, Ritual Chair at chezmoi465@gmail.com or 603-788-2259.