PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- A Sefer Torah dedication ceremony was held at the Aloha Jewish Chapel aboard Naval Station (NAVSTA) Pearl Harbor Oct. 26.
During the dedication, members of the synagogue and local military commanders completed the tradition of the writing of the last letters of the new Torah with the help of a 'sofer,' or scribe. For most people, the dedication of a new Torah is a once-in-a lifetime event.
"This is an absolutely fantastic and exciting time," said Daniel Bender, master of ceremonies for the dedication. "Most congregations do not get a brand-new Torah; they usually get a Torah from somewhere else, and very few congregations actually dedicate a Torah in their sanctuary for the purpose of that group."
The new Torah was created for military families stationed in Hawaii and will be used for future services at the chapel. Since its opening 32 years ago, the chapel was previously using an 80-year-old Torah which survived the Holocaust but is worn and no longer kosher due to fading letters.
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hanneman was on hand to comment on the day's importance.
"I came here today to share my best wishes with the Jewish community on this special opportunity with this sacred Torah," said Hanneman. "It's a major message that we recognize the Jewish people and embrace them. I am happy that the children here will be able to embrace what their parents and grandparents have worked very hard for."
To pay for the new Torah, Jewish and non-Jewish military personnel and civilians provided donations totaling $45,000 to the Aloha Jewish Chapel Torah Project.
"Truth has sprung up from the people who have recognized the need for a new Torah and the opportunity to make that happen," said Cmdr. Timothy Koester, NAVSTA Pearl Harbor chaplain. "I want to thank everyone who helped make this happen, especially the Torah Project committee members. What a great blessing it is to have this Torah here today."
During the dedication ceremony, a proclamation from Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle announcing the day as Aloha Jewish Chapel Day in Hawaii was read to the crowd. A portion of the proclamation read:
"In offering a place of solace to those serving in Hawaii, Aloha Jewish Chapel helps service members accomplish their mission. I hereby proclaim Oct. 26, 2008 as Aloha Jewish Chapel Day in Hawaii and thank its members for all they have contributed to the community."
The Torah is the first five books of the Bible -- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy -- and is always written by hand on a kosher scroll.
For more news from Commander, Navy Region Hawaii, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnrh/.