A Torah is Dedicated by Jews of the European Union


September 20, 2004

It was a first for the Jewish community of the European Union last week when a Torah scroll was completed and dedicated to the synagogue at the European Jewish Community Center. Scheduled to coincide with the onset of the New Year, the event drew diplomats, ambassadors and other Jewish representatives of governments who danced with the Torah scroll under the traditional chuppah, or canopy.

Several hundred Jews from European countries and others as well, are employed in the European Union center in Brussels. According to Rabbi Levi Matusof, director of the EJCC, the Torah dedication was an affirmative expression of Jewish solidarity and pride coming as it did, at a “time and place that is particularly worrisome for Jews in Europe, given the increased incidences of anti-Semitism here, and the relative feelings of insecurity that Jews are experiencing here.”

The directors of the EJCC took the opportunity to announce the installment of Rabbi Avi Tawil as the new program director of the Center. Rabbi Tawil will develop educational, social and cultural activities to raise Jewish awareness in this region.

As joyful Jewish melodies reverberated, many impulsively joined in the dancing of what might best be described as a spiritual kind of joy. The Israeli Ambassador to the EU, Oded Eran, observed that “this is the Torah nearest to the European institutions, and I am hopeful that as such, it will bring light, a high morale and equality to all European citizens.”

In the traditional completion of the Torah, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Erwin Kohn of Vienna, the last few letters were filled in by rabbinical members of the EU. Among them were: Chief Rabbi Gershon M. Garelik, of Milan, Chief Rabbi Dovid Moshe Lieberman of Antwerp, Rabbi Jacob Biderman of Vienna, and Chief Rabbis of Brussels, Menachem Haddad and Albert Guigi, as well as the head of the Belgian Jewish Consistoire, Mr. Julien Klener and executive director of the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE), Rabbi Moshe Garelik.

The celebration was followed by a festive dinner at one of Brussel’s posh hotels, where the topic of conversation was the Jewish situation in Europe, the imperative to combat assimilation and to reclaim and strengthen Jewish values among Europe’s younger generation. “The European Union’s Jewish community,” noted Tal Hasson, a junior official at the Enlargement Directorate General in the European Commission, “is similar to a light that shines at the far end of a dark tunnel.” Turning to the leadership of the EJCC, he said, “You took us out of our spiritual isolation.”

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