Sid Sussan remembers a time when many of his fellow residents of Leisure World in Silver Spring could hold or carry the Torah during services there. Now, a mere handful of the 100 regular worshippers have the strength to do so. Only two or three now can raise it above their heads.
After all, most of the residents who attend services “are north of 70, north of 80,” Sussan, a member of the Jewish residents of Leisure World, said of the age of his fellow worshippers.
Those who frequent the monthly Saturday morning service in the activities room in Club House II started a campaign several years ago to raise funds to buy a new, smaller and much lighter Torah.
“Several people stepped forward with more than $1,000 each,” said Allan Firestone, religious vice president of the organization. “Dozens and dozens of people” donated smaller financial gifts. With a recent push, half a dozen more residents donated at least $500 each, Firestone said.
Those efforts paid off. Last Friday, Firestone and Sussan beamed as they showed off the new 15-pound Torah, made in Israel. Torah scrolls generally weigh about 24 pounds, much of that weight coming from the two wooden spindles. Built using less wood, this new Torah can be carried—even lifted—by nearly everyone, Sussan said, bending his knees and lifting the Torah high above him.
The new Torah, which cost $17,000, made its debut Sunday, the first day of Shavuot.
“The print on this one is beautiful. The calligraphy is clear and crisp. It’s just beautiful,” Sussan added. The soft, blue cover was donated by the Sussans in memory of their parents. The silver breastplate, also was made in Israel, was donated by Firestone’s wife, Barbara, with money she received from the Holocaust Victim Compensation Fund.
She spent “a shade under $2,000 from her $300 monthly stipend,” Allan Firestone said. His wife spent much of the war in hiding, in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, he said.
The Jewish residents of Leisure World hold a weekly, slightly shortened Shabbat service, usually in the Inter-Faith Chapel. Once a month, the congregants conduct a full service.
Having services in Leisure World so no one has to drive to a synagogue at night “is vital,” said Sussan.
Leisure World’s Jewish residents have been conducting services for nearly the past 40 years.