Representatives of Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation made a guest appearance at Bolton Street Synagogue’s Friday night services on June 11 to present Bolton Street with a special gift: one of Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom’s Torah scrolls.
The Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom visitors included Interim Senior Rabbi Jennifer Weiner, Co-Presidents Mina Wender and Ken Bell and Co-Vice President Sam Dansicker.
Bell, a resident of Pikesville, originally had the idea for the Torah transfer during a joint, Friday-night Shabbat service at Bolton Street in 2020, prior to the pandemic, that included both his synagogue and Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, he said. The merger between the previously independent Har Sinai and Oheb Shalom synagogues had left the new shul with a particularly high number of Torah scrolls.
“We literally had more Torahs than places and arks in the building to place them,” Bell said. “And they were just being safely stored away.”
At the service, while talking to Elaine Richman, the president of Bolton Street Synagogue, Bell suggested giving one of these scrolls a new home at Bolton Street, he said, an idea that she and Bolton Street proved receptive to. He considers Bolton Street to be one of Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom’s “sister congregations,” he said, as they are both Union for Reform Judaism congregations and try to help each other whenever they can.
This was not the first time that Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom, or rather its predecessor congregations, has donated one of its Torah scrolls, Bell said. Har Sinai Congregation had permanently loaned one to the URJ’s Six Points Creative Arts Academy before.
The transfer was approved by Wender and Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom’s executive committee, Bell said. Dansicker and Weiner made the decision on which of the synagogue’s Torahs to give to Bolton Street. Bell stressed that the one chosen was not a Holocaust Torah, and that staff checked the existing records to ensure that it could not be traced to a donation by a member.
The handover was delayed by the pandemic, Bell said, but as hybrid or in-person services began returning, he reached out again to Richman and Bolton Street’s Rabbi Andy Gordon about finally getting it done. Bell had hoped to get the transfer done before his term of office finishes before the end of the month, as did Richman and Wender whose terms are also ending, Bell said.
With the handover now complete, Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom still has over a dozen Torah scrolls in its possession, Bell said.
“I’m thrilled and delighted,” Bell said regarding the handover, “even more so because it is one of our sister congregations.”
Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom’s generosity will go down in Bolton Street’s history books, Richman said in an email, as they now have the security of knowing their ark contains a second scroll for learning and worship.
“I can promise you that it will be used to address our guiding value of L’dor V’dor: the passing of Jewish values, wisdom and traditions from generation to generation,” Richman said.