The Project So Far

The Holocaust Torah Restoration Project began as the brainchild of a teenage congregrant, James Ayton, in anticipation of his Bar Mitzvah in November 2014. While still in middle school, he spearheaded the initiative to restore Congregation Emanuel’s Holocaust Torah, the Czech Memorial Scroll #326, by speaking up, speaking out, raising awareness and raising funds for our Torah. By the end of 2015, the project attracted support and attention of community members, friends, and neighbors throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond, allowing us to conduct initial assessments of the Torah’s condition, identify a Torah scribe, a sofer, who will perform the painstaking restoration work scheduled to begin in the fall of 2016. Fundraising efforts are underway to raise the $21,500 needed to carry out this sacred work; we are already over a third of the way to reaching this goal having raised 36% of total funds required. Before and during the restoration process, community outreach and engagement will offer awareness-building, educational, and participation opportunities for all those interested in supporting this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Now 17 years old, James reflects on how the project began for him: “before I even began Bar Mitzvah preparations, I saw my sister and Mom read from the Holocaust Torah and learned that we had this in our community. This really inspired me, but I also found out that our Torah was in a precarious state of disrepair. When I began my Bar Mitzvah studies, during discussions with the Rabbi, we talked about what it means to be a Jew, our commandments or mitzvot, and how everyone is commanded to write a Torah in their lifetime. We also discussed morals, what was right versus what was wrong. I knew restoring our Torah was the right thing to do. Something needed to be done to save our Torah and I thought: this is something I want to do. It seemed like a really important way to connect to our history. As Jews, we preserve our history. This is part of what’s kept us as one of the oldest religions and sustained us as an enduring community. I think this is part of why I thought it was such an important thing to do. Restoring our Torah preserves our history and assures our future.”

Congregation Emanuel of the Hudson Valley

Congregation Emanuel, a Reform Congregation in Kingston NY, led by Rabbi Yael Romer, was incorporated on June 7th, 1854 and currently has a thriving and diverse congregational membership of 240+ member families.Devoted to the enhancement of Jewish life and the belief in cooperation and mutual support between all Jewish institutions, Congregation Emanuel cultivates a welcoming community and sacred space for a conscious commitment to living Judaism through spiritual, cultural and religious egalitarian observance, celebration and education.

Congregation Emanuel is a place where sacredness and God’s presence are welcomed into our community through our actions and deeds with each other.  We are committed to: social action, justice, active learning, vibrant spirituality, creative expression, diversity, tolerance, and the integrity of the Reform Movement.