New Zealanders celebrate once-in-generation Sefer Torah


An Orthodox community in New Zealand has celebrated the inauguration of the first Sefer Torah written specifically for its congregation.

Written and produced in New Zealand, the scroll is the first of its kind to be specially commissioned for the Wellington Jewish Community Centre since it began its formal services 173 years ago.

The instalment was the culmination of a project begun by community member Martin Chait, who died last year from cancer at the age of 75. Following his death, Mr Chait’s daughter, Sarah Chowen, continued her father’s fundraising, collecting donations from people in Israel, Australia and the UK in order to complete his mission.

Early this year, the project had raised enough money to commission a scribe; the Martin Chait Torah was finally installed in early December, in the presence of New Zealand’s Israeli ambassador Itzhak Berberg, as well as councillors, MPs and representatives from local Hindu and Christian communities.

Ms Chowen, who lived in London for 15 years before returning to New Zealand three years ago to spend time with her terminally ill father, said Mr Chait had “so much fun working on this project”, adding: “It’s an amazing legacy he’s left for his whole community. It has breathed life into us.”

The Wellington Jewish Community Centre’s rabbi, Rabbi Yitzchak Mizrahi, said: “For many in the community, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fulfil the mitzvah of writing a Torah.

“We are blessed that Martin Chait has continued to contribute to our community even after his passing by giving so many the opportunity to participate in this mitzvah.”

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