September 21, 2006
USC Trojans march for restored Torah; Backyard tashlich in Fairfax
When the Trojan fight song rings out at a Torah restoration ceremony, where else could you be but at USC?
About 100 people gathered Sunday under the shade of sycamore trees in front of the university's Bovard Auditorium to witness the ceremonial completion of a restored Torah scroll that will become the centerpiece of religious life at the Chabad Jewish Student Center.
"It's an honor just to be here," said Kaley Zeitouni, a sophomore. "I really feel like I'm witnessing an important moment in this community's Jewish history. Every time I see the scroll at services I'll remember that I was part of this event."
Rabbi Aaron Schaffier, one of two Torah scribes involved in the scroll's restoration, said the scroll is between 70 and 80 years old and probably originated in Eastern Europe. Its long journey to USC included a layover in Massachusetts, where it was used for several decades at a synagogue that has now merged with other congregations.
The ceremony was particularly moving for Abe Skaletzky, who was visiting his daughter, Michele, another sophomore at USC.
"I'm a ba'al teshuvah," Skaletzky said. "So knowing this scroll might help other people return to Torah means a lot to me."
After the last details of the restoration were complete, Schaffier stitched the scroll to its wooden dowels with kosher sinew. Rabbi Dov Wagner carried the Torah from Bovard Auditorium to the Chabad House under a chuppah to symbolize the scroll's new life.
And that's when seven members of USC's marching band brought the moment to life. They began the procession with a rendition of the Trojan fight song, prompting students in the crowd to hold up the two-finger sign for victory.
During its installation at the Chabad House, the scroll was dedicated to the late Sandra Brand, a Holocaust survivor who established a fund to support the restoration of Torah scrolls to be donated to college communities.
-- Nick Street, Contributing Writer
Backyard Tashlich in Fairfax
For a few years on Rosh Hashanah -- until the raccoons ate all the fish and the fishpond was turned into a giant planter -- members of Ohev Shalom, a small Orthodox shul on Fairfax Avenue, gathered in my parents' yard for Tashlich.
The "pond," mind you, is about four feet in diameter and maybe a foot deep. But it'll do for the landlocked mid-Wilshire residents who don't drive on Rosh Hashanah and want to participate in the custom of Tashlich, which literally means to cast off.
Orthodox residents across the city seek out small bodies of water in which to throw bread crumbs, symbolizing their sins, as they recite atonement-related prayers on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (unless, like this year, it falls on Shabbat).
Tashlich is a custom, not a law, and can be recited anytime during the 10 Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Ideally, the water should be flowing and have fish in it, but that isn't always possible, so a small reservoir -- or my parents' fish pond -- works, too.
A small slab of the L.A. River runs through Beverlywood, some people gather there on Rosh Hashanah to toss their sins through the chainlink fence into the trickle of water muddying up the concrete cutout.
Maybe not quite what the rabbis had in mind when they based the tradition on the quote in Micah, "And you will all their sins into the depths of the sea." But then again, if bread crumbs can symbolize sins, why not fish ponds as the depths of the sea?
-- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor