Men of letters finish Khalili gift

By Jay Grenby, November 13, 2008
Professor David Khalili watches the completion of the Sefer Torah

Professor David Khalili watches the completion of the Sefer Torah

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks was one of 40 Western Marble Arch Synagogue members who wrote the final words of the community's newest Sefer Torah, which was presented to the congregation on Shabbat.

The scroll was commissioned by the family of scholar, collector and philanthropist Professor David Khalili and his wife Marion to mark their 30th wedding anniversary, and is the first Sephardi Sefer Torah to be donated to the shul.

In accordance with Sephardi custom, it is housed not in a mantle but in a magnificent and ornate silver case.

During the Shabbat service, the scroll was taken from the ark and paraded around the synagogue by each of the donors - Daniel, Benjamin and Raphael Khalili, the couple's three sons.

Ranked 21st in the Sunday Times Rich List, Iranian-born Professor Khalili has amassed the largest private collection of Islamic art in the world.

He is also co-founder and chairman of the Maimonides Foundation, promoting peace and understanding between Jews and Muslims.

"Professor Khalili is already a generous benefactor to our kehilah," said Western Marble Arch chairman Judge Barrington Black. "In the past, we have received wonderful historic silk carpets and a magnificent 500-year-old Sefer Torah.

"Most recently, he has agreed to finance the refurbishment of our Bloomstein Hall and its kitchen in honour of the Chief Rabbi, who has his official seat at the synagogue. Work should be completed in the new year."

Last updated: 3:14pm, July 16 2009