Chabad Jewish Center of Monroeville dedicates a new Torah
DedicationChabad Jewish Center of Monroeville celebrates second Torah

Chabad Jewish Center of Monroeville dedicates a new Torah

A once-in-a-lifetime occurrence that has happened twice in only three years

Back row: Mindy Norman (left), Gerri Moldovan, Esther Schapiro
Front Row: Rabbi Meny Schapiro, Rabbi Dovid Lipschitz, Gabbai Alan Iszauk 
Photo by Yehuda Welton
Back row: Mindy Norman (left), Gerri Moldovan, Esther Schapiro Front Row: Rabbi Meny Schapiro, Rabbi Dovid Lipschitz, Gabbai Alan Iszauk Photo by Yehuda Welton

Mindy Norman told the crowd assembled at the Gateway Hall in Monroeville that her golden years gave her the opportunity for an amazing journey.

Unlike others her age, though, her voyage didn’t include a trip around the world, seeing the Grand Canyon or chasing a passion she abandoned in her 20s or 30s.

“In my golden years, I traveled an amazing journey of commissioning a Torah,” she told the more than 100 community members who skipped the Steelers’ home opener for something a little more significant, even in Pittsburgh: the dedication of a Torah.

The new Torah is the second in roughly three years for the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroeville — or, as Rabbi Mendy Schapiro said, “A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that’s happened twice.”

Norman and Schapiro initially discussed creating a second Torah after the 2021 dedication of the center’s first Torah. Both thought there were occasions when one wouldn’t be enough.

“A shul should have more than one Torah,” the rabbi said.

For Norman, the idea of commissioning a Torah was a way to honor her late husband, Martin Ira Norman. Other community members could dedicate portions of the Torah as well.

Her husband, Norman said, would have been pleased with her journey. He grew up in New York, she said, and was a bit of a perfectionist. He appreciated what a Torah meant — free of blemish and with its letters properly spaced.

“The real beauty of this Torah,” she told those assembled, “is what’s inside. That’s what keeps us Jewish.”

The Torah was dedicated on Sept. 10, less than a week before Rosh Hashanah and only a day before the yahrzeit of Norman’s husband. Its completion was supervised by Rabbi Dovid Lipschitz, who sat by those wishing to help fill in the letters outlined in the new scroll. The sofer actually did the work, lest the newly written Torah suffer a poorly completed letter rendering it non-kosher and unusable.

Each participant uttered, “I am hereby writing a sefer Torah,” fulfilling a mitzvah. The celebration included not only the completion of the scroll but a catered lunch, children’s craft and, of course, song, dance and a Torah procession. The mayor of Monroeville sent in a proclamation read by Gabbai Alan Iszauk.

Schapiro said the Torah’s journey began in Monroeville, where several letters were outlined before the scroll was shipped to Israel to be completed. Once it was mostly completed, the Torah traveled back and forth between Israel and New York, verifying that all of the letters and spacing were correct.

It was even examined by a computer.

“It’s quite amazing,” Schapiro said. “It points out things like, these two letters look like they’re touching, or, in that letter the line of the vav is not long enough so it needs fixed.”

Norman helped to choose the mantle, crown and yad for the newly completed scroll.

The last time the 14-year-old Chabad center commissioned a scroll, it already had been started, so they joined the progress in the middle, Schapiro said. This time was different because they traveled the journey together from beginning to end.

“It was something special,” he said.

That feeling of awe was shared by the entire community.

Michael Glasser said it was the first time he was able to take part in such a ceremony.

“I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “This is my first experience with writing a Torah. During the course of my life, I’ve never had the opportunity before now.”

The experience also was a first for Jeff Baldel.

“It was very moving,” he said. “It was the first time for me ever doing this, and it’s a continuation of the faith, so I think that’s very special.”

Dedicating the Torah right before the High Holidays carries special significance, Schapiro explained.

“The High Holidays represents a time of renewal, a time to recommit ourselves to God and God to us,” he said. “It’s a two-way street. God recommits himself to be our king and our leader over the universe and over us and to provide for us, and we commit ourselves to doing that for Hashem. What better way to do that than with a brand-new Torah?”

And like the round challah symbolizing the circle of life, or the repetition of the Torah’s cycle that starts again as soon as it is completed, the dedication of a new Torah is another beginning, Schapiro said.

“It’s not the end — it’s the beginning of a new chapter,” he said. “While we have completed the project of a new Torah, we are working on some more projects coming to continue growing Chabad Monroeville and the Jewish community in the eastern suburbs.” PJC

David Rullo can be reached at

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