24 Elul 5776 (Look! Less than 1 week from the new moon/month/year!)
In the 150 year history of Jewish Sebastopol, there has yet to be housed a Torah that lives here, until now.
Just in time to be literally "unrolled" for the Jewish new year of Rosh HaShanah (which begins 10/2), Rabbis Daria and Josh Jacobs-Velde were the recipients of a Torah scroll and beautiful, hand-made, portable ark last week.
In the past, Congregation Beth Ami of Santa Rosa generously loaned us a Torah scroll when needed. However, we will now be able to build a connection with our very own Torah scroll, the first ever to belong to a Sebastopol-based Jewish community!
How did this wondrous event unfold? Through a special relationship that almost predates the beginnings of Sebastopol. Rabbi Daria's great-great uncle was also a rabbi, Rabbi Raphael Levine. Born in Lithuania at the turn of the last century, he came to the US as a young boy, and grew up in Minnesota. After becoming a lawyer, he found his calling in the rabbinate, just in time to be sent to London to serve during WWII. Upon returning to the US he was hired by a congregation in Seattle, WA. While serving a large congregation there, he, together with a Protestant minister and a Catholic priest from Ireland, Father William Treacy, started a TV show that ran for over a decade called "The Challenge."
Through the course of his relationship with the priest, he had the vision, and they fundraised together- to buy 200 acres outside of Seattle to start an interfaith retreat center together - Camp Brotherhood (later the Treacy-Levine Center) where youth and adults of all backgrounds could come together to connect through shared experiences in the natural world, in a beautiful camp-like setting.
Rabbi Daria never met this relative of hers who died suddenly 30 years ago. (However, she knew his older sister a little bit, her great-grandmother). Her grandmother had given her a book that "the Rabbi" and "the Priest" co-wrote together, The Wild Branch on the Olive Tree, and a handful of years ago Rabbi Daria decided to see if "the Priest" (as he was referred to) was still alive... After a little searching, she found him!
In August 2015 she traveled up to Seattle to finally meet him in person. As he is now 97 years old, it was like a reunion of long, lost family members whose families' history together spans over a century. It was during that visit that Fr. Treacy and the executive director of the Treacy-Levine Center, Tom Howell, had the idea to gift Rabbis Daria and Josh with the Torah scroll that hadn't been used and was not going to be used in the foreseeable future. Not only that, but the Torah scroll came with a beautiful, portable, hand-made ark (likely by "the Rabbi") that just needed a little TLC. How perfect for the Jewish community that loves to be outside whenever possible. Now the Torah can literally be carried in her own ark wherever she goes!
Since that first face-to-face meeting things changed in the plans for the future of the Treacy-Levine Center, and they decided that after 50 years it was time to sell the camp. A wonderful new camp will be coming in, Camp Korey, whose mission is to honor the courage, strength and determination of children living with serious illness. So the camp site will be able to continue the mission of "the Rabbi" and "the Priest" by providing a place for people of different backgrounds to play and learn together- from the campers, to their parents.
Meanwhile, the largest Judaic item there, the Torah (aka "the Tree of Life"), has found new life in her new home with Rabbis Daria and Josh and the Zmanim community. Starting with this year's Rosh HaShanah celebrations for the "birthday of the world," on Oct. 2 and Oct 4, she will be brought out for the first time in a very long time, and publicly chanted from and celebrated with in close proximity to her dear relatives- branches, leaves, trunks and roots of the local "trees of life."
Come join us for a true shehekheyanu (first time, positive event) moment as we connect with the particularities of this zman (time/moment- singular of "zmanim")!
Shanah tova u'm'tukah! May you have a happy, sweet new year, and we look forward to celebrating it with you!