Tampa family grants Hillel Academy community chance to write a Torah

The Fisch family donated the new Torah to honor relative, connect children.
Murray and Sarah Fisch, and their children, participate in writing a new Torah with scribe Rabbi Yochanan Salazar at Hillel Academy in Tampa. Photo Courtesy of Leslie Farrell.
Murray and Sarah Fisch, and their children, participate in writing a new Torah with scribe Rabbi Yochanan Salazar at Hillel Academy in Tampa. Photo Courtesy of Leslie Farrell.
Published December 7

The tradition of writing a Torah dates back to Judaism’s beginnings.

A scribe puts quill to parchment paper and participants take turns holding his hand, guiding the pen across portions of the sacred book. In September, Hillel Academy in Tampa began the process of creating its own Torah, made possible by Murray and Sarah Fisch.

The Fisch’s three children attend Hillel and Sarah Fisch works as the school’s Curriculum Coordinator.

The family donated the new Torah scroll in honor of Murray’s late father, Jerry Fisch.

The Fisch’s family company, Florida Stonework, also will donate an ark, a traditional cabinet in which to store the Torah.

“Hillel is home to our family,” Sarah Fisch said. “We spend the majority of our lives here and Judaism is very important to us. It is really impactful that our kids will be able to read from a Torah hand written in honor of their grandfather.”

“The opportunity to help write a Torah, which can last for centuries, is rare,” said Allison Oakes, head of school.

An official scribe must bring the scroll from and to Israel, where the majority of the work is written.

“If a Jew has a goal of meeting the 613 commandments, the writing of the Torah is difficult to complete and so this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Oakes said. “It is number 613.”

In September, scribe Rabbi Yochanan Salazar brought the first pages to Hillel. About 100 people assisted him by writing a letter, word or few words. The Fish family helped begin the transcribing of Genesis.

Salazar will return in January and March. Members of the community are invited to participate regardless of faith or age. Anyone can be a part of making a Torah, Oakes said.

“I was raised Italian-Catholic and converted to Judaism,” Sarah Fisch said. “This is really special because my parents who are Catholic will be able to share this with their grandchildren.”

Salazar will piece the pages together in Israel and have it bound before bringing the completed book back to Hillel. An unveiling celebration will take place during Rosh Hashana in 2019. The Torah will then remain at Hillel, where students and faculty will be able to read from it at services.

There is always something happening on campus to connect students with Judaism, Oakes said.

This week, Hillel students will celebrate Hanukkah with parties, gifts and performances.

For more information, visit hillelacademytampa.com.

Contact Sarah Whitman at [email protected]

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