Wantagh-based temple celebrates Torah restoration


Temple B’nai Torah in Wantagh recently took a giant step forward in unifying its diverse congregation by hosting a weekend-long spiritual Torah restoration.

The temple, located at 2900 Jerusalem Avenue, has a long and storied history. B’nai Torah is a reform Temple that includes members from Wantagh, Seaford, Bellmore, Merrick, East Meadow, and various other communities on Long Island.

Originally known as “Suburban Temple,” it became Temple B’nai Torah in 2008 when it merged with Massapequa’s Temple Judea. In 2018, B’nai Torah absorbed congregants — and a rabbi, Daniel Bar-Nahum — from East Meadow’s Temple Emanu-El, which closed down.

From Dec. 2 to 4, the Temple celebrated two Torahs. Both are from Europe; one came from Holocaust-era Czechoslovakia and the other came in pieces from various countries of Eastern Europe. This Torah restoration event consisted of congregants, led by a scribe, restoring the Torah by rewriting damaged Hebrew letters, using a quill and ink.

For the Torah that was used during the Holocaust, Temple B’nai Torah’s goal is to make use of it rather than have it as an artifact from a dark time.

“Think about all the devastation from the Holocaust,” Joyce Rappaport, a congregant from East Meadow and co-chair of the temple’s fundraising committee, said. “To think that this Torah survived, has been restored, and now will actually be in use again is incredible.”

The temple kicked off its weekend celebration by having its senior youth group members read from the newly restored Holocaust Torah at the Shabbat service the evening of Dec. 2.

This was the first time this Torah has been read at a service since the Holocaust.

“We are having a really powerful generation-to-generation moment,” Bar-Nahum said. “The next generation of our community is now in touch with this scroll. It reminds us of the generations that perished in Europe but ultimately reminds us that, no matter how difficult things were, Judaism survived.”

On Dec. 4 the second Torah was restored in an all-day session, in addition to a brunch.

While many years have passed since three temples merged into B’nai Torah, many of the congregants still felt deep connections to their past temples. With this Torah restoration, key figures at Temple B’nai Torah felt they have taken a decisive step to making the Temple more whole and unified.

“Everybody has traditions that they’re fond of,” Bar-Nahum said. “And so I think that part of the project here is to remind us that no matter which of the different legacy communities we might have come from, this Torah belongs to all of us.”

The weekend was led by both Bar-Nahum and Neil Yerman, a world-renowned sofer, or Torah scribe. Some of Yerman’s past work in the area includes the restoration of Torahs at Temple Sinai of Roslyn. On Dec. 3, Yerman led a Torah study group and taught congregants the history of both of the restored scrolls.

All were welcome for Sunday’s restoration, including non-Jewish members. “We are a very multicultural place, and everyone is welcomed,” Ronni Fauci, also from East Meadow and a Fundraising co-chair, said. “My husband is not Jewish, yet he wrote in the Torah. We have congregants from many different backgrounds and no one is ever turned away from our doors.”

According to Fauci and Rappaport, nearly 200 people attended the restoration event, participated in weekend activities, and assisted in either writing letters in the Torah or helping with certain other aspects of the celebration.

“The Torah is God’s word to us,” Daniel Bar-Nahum said. “We make a point to care for these scrolls, so that they last a long time and can endure. When we write letters in these scrolls, what we are really doing is ensuring that God’s word will last to the next generation.”