Our Sifrei Torah
Congregation Agudas Achim has acquired seven Sifrei Torah in its more than seventy-five year history. Five are installed in the Aron Kodesh of the main sanctuary. The remaining two Sifrei Torah are kept in the chapel where they are read during the morning minyan on Mondays, Thursdays and Rosh Chodesh. To assist new Jewish congregations, we make our additional Torah available for loan for High Holidays and other significant occasions. The Torah mantles, designed by Dr. Podwal, each represent a Jewish festival or day of remembrance. The Yom Ha-Shah mantle is worn by a Torah saved from the Holocaust and bears an upside down Menorah formed by converging railroad tracks. The history of our scrolls are from observations by Roberta Long with the assistance of Dr. Eric Ray, a Torah Safer (Scribe). Nicknames were provided by Lucien Zahendra. Edited by David Chapin and Davida Charney. Torah photographs
© 2004 David Finkel Photography
Bull Creek Torah
Nickname: "Keren" (light rays)
This is our newest and most commonly used Torah in the main sanctuary.
Donors: This Torah was a gift to ourselves from our congregation. After Michael and Susan Dell donated the scroll, many other Agudas Achim congregants made donations for inscribing the Torah.
History: In 1996, Agudas Achim undertook fulfilling the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah at least once in our lifetime. A Safer (scribe) in Israel wrote the Torah and it was finished in Austin by internationally renowned safer Dr. Eric Ray and dedicated in a Siyum ha-Torah ceremony on May 18, 1997.
What to Notice: The Torah is written on very high quality parchment so that it will stay light-colored without any additional white-washing plaster (known as zid). It is lighter-weight than other large Torahs. Its layout exactly matches the tikkun.
Nickname: "Esh" (fire)
This Torah is used in the main sanctuary on occasions when more than one Torah section is read. We honor the memory of its former community by maintaining the tradition of regularly reading from it. In memory of the Holocaust, this Torah is only minimally adorned. We use a special wooden yad when we read from it.
Donors: This Torah is on permanent loan from the Westminster Synagogue in London England, which was given guardianship of over 1500 Czechoslovakian Torahs confiscated by the Nazis during WWII. Jarrell (Tank) Rubinett was instrumental in bringing this Torah to our congregation. Donors included the Selig, Rosenberg and Kogut families. It was dedicated in May 1986.
History: This Torah is one of only a few of the rescued Czech Torahs that are still "kosher." The names of the scribes are engraved on a ring around the bottom wooden staffs (Atzei Chayim). These scribes include a father who began the Torah and a son who found the partial scroll in a geniza, repaired it and continued it with similar script. The Torah is from Prerov, in Moravia, Czechoslovakia and was written around 1825.
What to Notice: The columns have more lines (60) than is now standard (42 lines) and vary in width. It is written on a darker parchment than the Bull Creek Torah that has not been white-washed, so it is light-weight. In some places, the ink looks brown because of fading. The calligraphy is small and it is sometimes easy to lose one's place when reading it.
Our Sephardic Torah is housed in a round, hard case and read upright.
Donors: Rose Tanenbaum donated this Torah in memory of her brother, Joe Goldfinger in 1967. The case that holds the Torah was a joint gift from Danny Fleschman, in memory of his wife Frieda and from Freida and Lou Gerhardt in memory of her brother-in-law, Abe Donor.
History: According to Dr. Ray, this scroll was probably written in the 1930s on parchment from North Africa. The seller's name is inscribed at the end. Because the case is made of velvet and a Georgian-style design done in brass, Dr. Ray speculates that it is from the large Persian community in Calcutta that was known to use styles of this sort.
What to Notice: According to Dr. Ray, the case was not created for this scroll and is too small for it. The scroll shows signs of use and was probably laid flat when it was read. The parchment has zid on one side and the lettering is in Sephardic Yerushalmi script.
Shorter Vilna Torah
History: One of the original 3 from the San Jacinto synagogue. Little is known about this Torah because it has been in our congregation for a very long time. It was the most frequently used scroll before the Bull Creek Torah was completed. According to Dr. Ray, it was written by two different scribes in a classic "Bet Yosef' script, used in Vilna.
What to Notice: This scroll has zid on the back.
Taller Vilna Torah
Donors: A gift from the Kogut and Tanenbaum families in memory of Rose and Bernard Tanenbaum. It was dedicated on November 2, 1980.
History: According to Dr. Ray, this Torah was written in Vilna about 70-80 years ago by at least two scribes in Poland. One scribe has letters that vary from the Vilna script. It was reconditioned for use by the Congregation.
What to Notice: This scroll has zid on both sides. Because of this and its height, it is our heaviest Torah.
Nickname: "Na-ar" (a young boy) Used for weekday minyanim in the chapel. History: One of the original three from the San Jacinto synagogue.
What to Notice: This small Torah has zid on the back, 42 lines per column and small print.
History: One of the original three from the San Jacinto synagogue. This Torah is occasionally available for loan to other congregation.
What to Notice: The ink on this Torah is badly oxidized