Talk about precious cargo. On Tuesday, Sept. 19, two Torah scrolls belonging to the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue (and a wooden ark) went for a ride dressed in their High Holiday best. The scrolls, in traditional white coverings, were removed from the ark on Griswold Street and loaded onto a flatbed truck adorned with greenery and beautiful flowers. Each featured a stunning large silver crown, plate and yad (pointer).
Congregants Oren Goldenberg and Jacinta Branch held the scrolls as they rolled up Woodward Avenue to the Bethel Community Transformation Center, the site of this year’s High Holiday services. The historic Albert Kahn building, which dates back to 1921, is the former home of Temple Beth El.
“The Downtown Synagogue’s decision to hold our High Holiday services in Detroit this year is an affirmation of our commitment to the city and to our shared future,” said Rabbi Ariana Silverman, who also rode in the bed of the truck during the scroll roll. “It will be a privilege to worship in a space that has such deep significance for the Jews of Metro Detroit and to our neighbors and partners who worship there now. We could not do so without our Torah scrolls, without our neighbors and partners, and without the enthusiasm of our congregation to honor the beautiful sanctuary’s sacred past and present.”
When the truck pulled up to the grand entrance of the old temple, a small crowd of congregants and members of Breakers Covenant Church International (which holds weekly services in the building) was waiting to greet the scrolls and carry them inside. The group formed two lines, passing the Torahs from one person to the next until they were placed inside the sanctuary. There were songs and prayers; Rabbi Mark Miller of Temple Beth El, Pastor Aramis Hinds of Breakers Covenant Church International and Rabbi Silverman also shared some thoughts and reflections.
“It was very moving for everyone involved,” said Arlene Frank, the Downtown Synagogue’s executive director. “It brought back history, it created a future and it made a deep connection between our communities.”
Little is known about the origin of the Torah scrolls or their history, but they’ve certainly traveled many miles. Over the last six years, the scrolls were transported back and forth to and from the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills for High Holiday services. They have also been carried around the streets of Downtown Detroit as part of what Rabbi Silverman describes as “a raucous annual Simchat Torah celebration.”
But, this year holds special significance.
“We are proud to be working in partnership with the Bethel Community Transformation Center and to be celebrating our shared textual tradition,” Rabbi Silverman said. “Young Jews are proud to be embracing the Torah in the streets of Detroit and proud to be learning from the rich history of the former Temple Beth El building.”
Rosh Hashanah services took place last week. The Downtown Synagogue will hold Kol Nidre services Friday, Sept. 29, and Yom Kippur and Neilah services on Saturday, Sept. 30, at 8801 Woodward Ave. (at Gladstone). Events are free and open to all, but pre-registration is requested online at downtownsynagogue.org or by phone at (313) 962-4047. The full schedule for services is also available on the synagogue’s website.
Story by Robin Schwartz / Photos by Elayne Gross Photography