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Victoria synagogue restores 300-year-old scrolls

'It takes a scribe probably close to a year to write an entire Torah scroll'
Congregation Emanu El Rabbi Harry Brechner reads from one of the synagogue’s Torah scrolls. The synagogue celebrates the return of two 300-year-old scrolls this weekend.

It takes a lot of patience to copy by hand the ancient Jewish texts collectively known as the Torah.

So when Congregation Emanu El’s 300-year-old Torah scrolls were returned to Victoria this month, its rabbi decided a celebration was in order.

“It takes a scribe probably close to a year to write an entire Torah scroll,” said Rabbi Harry Brechner. “It’s used for ritualistic purposes, we read Torah publicly three times per week.”

The 45-metre scrolls of ancient Hebrew, comprising the first five books of the Bible, is the most esteemed text in a synagogue.

Emanu El, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, sent its Torah scroll off to the U.K. for restoration earlier this year. But it wasn’t until professional scribes examined the document that they realized it was at least three centuries old.

“Judging by the colour that’s faded and the ink that’s used and the way the parchment is stitched, it’s considerably older than we thought,” said Brechner, adding the scrolls likely originated in Central Europe.

To celebrate the text’s return, Congregation Emanu El is inviting the public to participate in a short parade at the corner of Blanshard Street and Pandora Avenue on Sunday (Oct. 20), followed by music, dancing and food at the synagogue. The event begins at 10 a.m.

For more information, call 250-382-0615.