A Torah scroll is void if any of its 304,805 letters are missing or incomplete, or if its dozens of sheets of parchment and the ink aren’t prepared in strict adherence of Torah law.
At a celebration in the high school auditorium Sunday, a certified Torah scribe sat at a table on the stage and wrote the final three letters for a new scroll for the Chabad of the Rivertowns that should last generations.
Children joined the scribe while he wrote letter 304,803. Letter 304,804 was dedicated to the entire community. Jean-Marc Orlando, the man who funded the creation of the new scroll through a lawsuit settlement, came onstage with his family for the writing of the final letter.
Orlando, a practicing Orthodox Jew, sued former employer BNP Paribas after the bank showed a training video that depicted its competitors at Deutsche Bank as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. In a recent interview, Orlando said the case will fade from memory but people will be inspired by the Torah itself.
“It is a candle that we lit in the darkness,” he said.
Orlando, a Scarsdale resident and congregant, had been a high-level employee at BNP in 2011 when, at a work event in Amsterdam, he was shown the video with other employees. The video is a clip from the 2004 movie “Downfall,” in which Hitler angrily yells at high-ranking military personnel. The clip, often reworked using subtitles to parody sports events, portrayed Hitler as the CEO of Deutsche Bank.
Orlando, whose grandmother was detained by the Nazis in World War II, was upset and complained about the video. He was later fired, which he said was retaliatory.
Rabbi Benjy Silverman equated the celebration to a wedding where the scroll was being welcomed “like a new member of the family.” Silverman said Orlando and his wife, Barbara, fought not for themselves but for all Jews and their perseverance “transformed a negative personal experience into a positive communal experience.”
The timing of the completion of the scroll, in the face of rising anti-Semitic incidents in the area, was noted by the rabbi.
“Coming together elevates us and it’s the best antidote to anti-Semitisim,” he said. “If some people in the world don’t like us, let us respond by showing them we love one another. Let us be at peace with one another if we want to be at peace with the world.”
Late last year, swastikas and the words “White Power" were found spray painted on a bike path in White Plains. There have been four incidents of swastika graffiti in Lewisboro since December, and graffiti and handbills from a “white identity” group were reported in Hastings-on-Hudson in February. Local Jewish community centers were among those targeted by bomb threats last month.
Rep. Nita Lowey, a Harrison Democrat, attended the “Unity Torah” celebration and said all religions and all races needed to unite to speak out against hatred.
“When ugly events have taken place not just all over the world but right here in our community it is important for us to speak out, to act and to make it clear that this kind of hatred against anyone, this kind of bigotry against anyone, cannot exist here,” she said.
After the Torah was completed, it was wrapped and crowned in a ceremony. It was then marched in a celebratory parade that included music and dancing up to the Chabad of the Rivertowns.