When Harold Juter died three years ago, his family decided to honor him by fulfilling one of his dreams to help find a Torah scroll for a Jewish community.
They found a Torah for Chabad of Downtown, who on Dec. 5, held a small ceremony in a hotel room at Hyatt Place Baltimore/Inner Harbor to celebrate its new Torah. This is the Chabad’s first Torah scroll; previously the Chabad used a loaner Torah. In order to ensure participant safety, the ceremony had a limited number of attendees, who were required to wear face masks and stay spaced apart.
The timing of the ceremony was significant because it was Juter’s third yahrzeit and the 13th anniversary of Chabad of Downtown.
Juter had been involved with Chabad of Downtown and was friends with the Chabad’s directors, Rabbi Levi and Chani Druk, since he moved to Baltimore about a decade ago to be closer to his son, Elton Juter, and to get medical treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The Druk family provided a lot of support for his father and family, Elton Juter said. Once, for example, when his father was hospitalized in Johns Hopkins’ intensive care unit during Purim, Rabbi Druk and a few bochurim visited him with groggers and costumes, even putting on personal protective equipment so they could bring the holiday to him.
“He forged an incredible relationship with Rabbi and Rebbetzin Druk, not just that of a rabbi and a congregant, but a relationship based on a wonderful friendship,” Elton Juter said. “It was always my father’s dream to find a Torah for a growing community that didn’t have one yet.”
Harold Juter was originally from South Africa and moved to Hawaii when Elton Juter was a kid. As an adult, Elton Juter moved to Baltimore for work. In 1996, Harold Juter was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer. He also had other health issues.
Harold Juter had “a love for life, a love for people, a joy in being around people and being around his community, his friends, his family, and just an overall sense of gratitude,” Elton Juter said.
It took several years for Juter and Druk to find the right Torah for the Chabad. They had certain size considerations to keep in mind. They also decided they wanted to get a renewed Torah, Druk said. The Torah they have now is believed to have been written in Eastern Europe. It came to the United States around World War II and served a congregation of first- and second-generation Americans in Staten Island, N.Y. That congregation eventually died out, and its Torah is now finding a new life with Chabad of Downtown.
The story of this Torah, Druk said, resonates with him.
“We live in downtown,” Druk explained. “Downtown is a community, a neighborhood, an area, which had a vibrant Jewish community. That community moved elsewhere, and now we’re in the process of a rebirth, so to say. I feel like this Torah has a very similar background.”
Druk said he hopes the addition of a new Torah to downtown Jewish life will help grow and strengthen the community.
“The importance of the Torah to the Jewish people is obviously beyond words,” Druk said. “The Jew and the Torah are inseparable. It’s what makes us a people. It’s what makes us a nation. It’s not a common language or a common culture or a common location that kept the Jews together. It’s always been the Torah.”