The Rohr Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life celebrated the induction of a new Torah scroll with a welcoming celebration and parade from University Union to the Chabad House on Sunday afternoon. Dubbed the “Binghamton Legacy Torah,” it will serve as the centerpiece of Jewish life at Binghamton University.
The Legacy Torah marks the development of Chabad from a small group of a dozen or so students to an organization that represents a significant portion of the Jewish student population at BU. Steven Levy, ‘85, came back to witness the event and see for himself the growth of Chabad.
“When I was here, they used to get 11 or 12 kids to come to a Friday dinner, and now they have several hundred kids coming every week,” Levy said. “It really links all the people who have been here in the past when the Slonims started Chabad in 1985. Going forward, hopefully, it will link all the people in the years to come.”
The idea for the Legacy Torah started in 2015 at Chabad’s 30th Anniversary Gala held at Eden Palace in Brooklyn, New York. Rivkah Slonim, the education director of Chabad, said that at the dinner, the Chabad community decided to commission a Torah as a representation of Chabad’s strength in the future and as a way to unite the alumni, students and parents who helped contribute to the development of Chabad through the years.
The welcoming celebration took place in Old Union Hall in the University Union with a few opening words from Slonim discussing the importance and significance of the Legacy Torah, which took over two years to complete and was sponsored by thousands of individuals, from Israel to Australia. She noted that it was painstakingly written by hand, including by a scribe in Israel, because if one letter is missing, the Torah cannot be used.
“The Torah is a tradition that has a certain number of hundreds of thousands of letters that has a powerful metaphor for the Jewish people,” Slonim said. “Each letter carries the same weight for every single person of the Jewish community and that each person is a powerful letter in their very own right in the scroll that represents a nation.”
Mariah Stein, the president of Chabad and a senior majoring in human development, spoke about her experience at Chabad and her connection with the Legacy Torah before she welcomed BU President Harvey Stenger onto the stage.
“The essence of Chabad is community,” Stein said. “Each person is welcomed to its large Jewish community and each person has a place. I am proud to say that I have a letter in this Torah that is read between thousands of people and connects me with people that I’ve never even met. This Torah represents not what Chabad has already accomplished, but what Chabad will continue to accomplish.”
After the welcoming ceremony, a parade was held from the Mandela Room to the Chabad House and was accompanied by scores of students, alumni, parents and Chabad personnel dancing, singing and celebrating the arrival and completion of the Legacy Torah. At the Chabad House, there was a ritual citing of 26 verses from the liturgy and scripture, which spoke of the relationship between God and the Jewish people on the Torah.
Stenger talked about the contributions Chabad has made to the University community and said that he remain committed in supporting Chabad and its future endeavors.
“When I first got here, one of the first people I met was Rabbi Aaron Slonim and he told me the importance of the Jewish community in Binghamton University and I immediately understood what he was telling me,” Stenger said. “But what I didn’t understand was the deep connection that Chabad has with thousands of students, parents and alumni. The events, religious and social, that are undertaken at the Chabad House build a sense of community that you can’t find anywhere else. It is unique to Binghamton University.”