|Posted by kehillatisrael on December 19, 2007 at 9:16 AM|
Monroe Township, New Jersey � The Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe
will mark an important milestone Sunday with the acquisition of an ark,
the sacred structure used to house the Torah. But it's more than a new
beginning � it also marks an end.
The ark will come from the 159-year-old Kehillat Israel temple in Shenandoah, Pa., which is no longer in use. The empty synagogue was once the center of a thriving Jewish community in the coal-mining town.
�We had over 100 Jewish families when I was growing up. Now there's barely 11 Jews in Shenandoah,� said Herb Siswein, 80, who said he was an active member of the congregation. His grandfather attended services at Kehillat in 1892, he said.
�It's very heartbreaking,� said Ethel Harris, 79, who was president of the sisterhood there. �It was really a very beautiful old synagogue.�
Her husband, Mendel Harris, 84, was the last president and treasurer of the congregation. He plans to say Kaddish, the Jewish mourning prayer, for the temple.
�It's like the death of a loved individual,� he said.
But the transfer of the ark will also keep a part of Kehillat alive, the Harrises said. �It stood in that temple for decades and it represented God and the Torah in that community, and was part of the celebration of new life, of new marriages, (and) of life-cycle events in that community,� said Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky of the Monroe temple. �And now, instead of that ark being destroyed, it is moving on where it can have new life in a new environment.
�It will be a source of inspiration for anybody who will see it and will come to celebrate life in its new home."
Proceeds from the sale of the ark will also help celebrate the lives of Kehillat congregants who have passed on. The money will go into a trust fund used to pay for the maintenance of Kehillat Israel Cemetery, Mendel Harris said.
Zaklikovsky said the Chabad Jewish Center is still in the process of negotiating the price of the ark.
The rabbi and 10 volunteers will head out Sunday morning for a drive to Shenandoah, Pa., to retrieve the ark. It will be a complex and careful process, he said, because the ark was built into the temple wall in accordance with Jewish tradition.
It will be placed in a new building that is under construction. The building is expected to be completed and dedicated within six months, the rabbi said.
The acquisition of the ark coincides this week with the Yartzeit, or anniversary of death, of Rebbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, who was the leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Zaklikovsky said. The Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe will honor his memory with the new addition, the rabbi said, and will also mark his 1994 passing by visiting his grave in Queens, N.Y., on Thursday