They paid for the honor of delicately laying their fingers on the white feather of a quill pen as a Jewish scribe neatly printed the last letters of a new Torah.
Earl Vernon gave $500 so he, his wife, sister and niece could help the scribe finish the Book of Exodus. “It is important to be involved with a Torah,” said Vernon, who is also on the building committee for Pierce County’s first Orthodox synagogue.
On Sunday, more than 200 people gathered on the future lot of the temple at 2146 N. Mildred St. for a groundbreaking ceremony and Torah dedication for Chabad of Pierce County.
The festivities included traditional dancing, stuffed Torahs for the children and a giant feast after the newly dedicated Book of Moses was paraded around the block as neighbors watched from their windows.
“The dream of the Jewish community is about to become a reality,” Rabbi Zalman Heber told the joyous crowd.
Since moving from New York seven years ago, Heber has held services in the basement of his West End house for up to 30 Jewish families.
The synagogue, which is expected to be completed late next year, is being built near Heber’s home on a 7,148-square-foot lot between two homes.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said Karen Lebeter of Lakewood.
Several dignitaries spoke during the ceremony, including Attorney General Rob McKenna and Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor.
“We are certain this will bring unity to the community and the neighborhood,” said Tacoma City Manager Eric Anderson. “We are certain it will enhance our diversity. We welcome and embrace it.”
At 3:53 p.m., a dozen men donned white hard hats over their yarmulkes and plunged shovels into a dirt patch.
Some began dancing while others stood at attention, their eyes focused on the scribe as he penned in the last letters of the $35,000 Torah and waved a stack of papers above it to dry the ink. A year’s worth of scribing the holy words was complete.
After a moment, Hagbah – the lifting of the Torah scroll – commenced.
The rabbi’s father carefully lifted the hand-written Torah above his head and slowly turned so everyone could see three neat columns scribed on animal parchment and held together with pieces of white tape.
It was then carefully rolled up and dressed with a navy blue velvet bag with gold lining (a process called Gelilah). A silver breastplate and crown were placed on the Torah before it was carried to the street beneath a chuppah canopy.
Children ensconced in their father’s arms leaned over to kiss the Torah as it led the dancers into the street and toward the nearby Professional Development Center.
Ziv Zantkovsky, 37, said he was overcome with emotion knowing that the congregation finally has its own scroll.
“It comes to your heart,” he said. “It makes you choke up.”