Scroll makes a stop in Everett

EVERETT — The congregation at Temple Beth Or is preparing to receive a distinguished guest next week.

The the world-traveling visitor ranks as the highest authority on Judaism — but isn’t a person. It’s a Torah scroll journeying to 20 Reform Jewish congregations in North America, en route to Israel.

The goal is to promote awareness of social issues in the Jewish state, with spiritual rejoicing along the way.

“Having this Torah here will really be a great opportunity to talk about gender equality, immigration reform, human rights and religious freedom,” said Rabbi Jessica Kessler Marshall of Temple Beth Or. “We’re hoping that it will create awareness as we seek to bring a vision of a pluralistic and democratic Israel to fruition.”

The visiting Torah is scheduled to be part of Shabbat services at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Temple’s address is 3215 Lombard Ave., Everett.

The Torah, Judaism’s core religious text, comprises the first five books of the Bible. The parchment scrolls are sacred objects, a repository of religious morals and values.

“It’s living, it’s evolving — it’s not old and stagnant,” Marshall said. “It’s something that each person connects with in his or her own way.”

Beth Israel, a congregation in San Diego, donated the scroll, said Rabbi Rebecca Epstein, who is coordinating the trip on behalf of the New York-based Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA). The scroll originated in Russia and is thought to be 80 years old.

The final destination is a Reform congregation called Kehilat Sha’ar HaNegev near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. The congregation has no scroll of its own.

The scroll left San Diego on Feb. 10. So far, it’s reached Dallas, San Francisco and communities in southern California.

Epstein knows Temple Beth Or’s Marshall from rabbinical school and asked if she’d like to host the scroll.

“Each rabbi who receives it really gets to share with the community,” Epstein said. “People are doing all kinds of events with all ages. Reading from the Torah, writing their own prayers.”

At the center of the scroll’s mission is promoting values central to Judaism’s Reform movement, which has a more liberal interpretation of the Torah than Orthodox or Conservative Judaism, the other two main branches practiced in the United States, Marshall said.

While Epstein doesn’t plan to accompany the Torah for domestic legs of the journey, she does intend to take it in June on a mission to pray at Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall. That’s controversial because only men have full rights to pray there. In the effort, Epstein is joining the activist group Women of the Wall. Epstein said she expects the religious authorities at that wall to turn her away.

The planned stop at the wall is part of a larger mission to encourage the Israeli government to tolerate a more diverse spectrum of religious practice, beyond Orthodox Judaism.

“It really helps when Jews in the rest of the world can say we want to see an Israel that is open to other forms of Judaism, that is egalitarian and pluralistic,” Epstein said. “That’s what this scroll is doing is teaching these American Jewish communities about issues of civil issues in Israel.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Top (L-R): Kim Daughtry, Steve Ewing. Bottom (L-R): Gary Petershagen, Marcus Tageant.
Developers court Lake Stevens council incumbents with over $20K

Over half of the campaign dollars for four candidates came from people tied to real estate or property development.

Voting thing
Decision time: Ballots on their way to a half-million voters

Races for mayor, city councils and school boards are focal point of the Nov. 2 election in Snohomish County.

Police investigating Mill Creek collision where man died

A stretch of 35th Ave SE was expected to be closed for a few hours Friday night.

No injuries, one arrested in Silver Lake drive-by shooting

An Everett woman, 35, was booked into jail for investigation of first-degree assault.

People look through a box of vegetables at the Lake Stevens Community Food Bank on Aug. 30, 2018 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Big push lands Lake Stevens Food Bank a slice of federal aid

When the County Council OK’d use of $56.6 million, it made a change, steering $600,000 to the nonprofit.

Everett woman who died in crash south of Everett identified

Tigist Abay, 50, was on her way to work Oct. 5 when she was injured near 128th Street.

Police say a woman had a concealed handgun in her possession as she was being booked on a DUI charge at the Snohomish County Jail on Wednesday. (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)
Police: Woman had gun in her abdomen when booked into jail

The loaded Colt .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun was found in the folds of her flesh at the Snohomish County Jail.

Firefighters contained a fire to a storage area inside Cabela's around 5am this morning. Smoke spread throughout building, putting preliminary damage estimate at about $500,000. We're glad no one is hurt. Sno County Fire Marshal's Office is investigating cause. (Marysville Fire District)
Fire causes $500K damage at Tulalip Cabela’s

The outdoor supplies store closed after heavy smoke damaged merchandise and more in the building.

Everett, Smokey Point rest areas closed for 2021

WSDOT announced the closures were due to ongoing maintenance, staffing and vandalism problems.

Most Read