German imam helps complete writing Torah scroll

Marcy Oster

BERLIN (JTA) – A new Torah scroll in the central German city of Marburg was completed with interfaith help, including that of the local Muslim leader.

“Especially at a time when agitators draw ever bigger crowds and shout, it’s more important than ever to seek moderation and show what

connects us all,” said Bilal El-Zayat, president of the Islamic Community of Marburg, according to a report in the Juedische Allgemeine weekly.

El-Zayat, a physician, placed his hand atop that of Torah scribe Josef Chranovski as he penned one of the last 15 letters of the Torah, to

spell out the statement: “Witnessed by all Israel.” Also joining in the ritual to mark the congregation’s 10th anniversary last week were local Protestant and Catholic clergy as well as the city’s mayor and his predecessor.

Presiding over the event – which took place in the city archive building – were rabbis Avremi Nussbaum, Beni Pollak and Chranovski as

well as members of the local Jewish community and the foundation that supports it. The latter had raised 25,000 euros for the new Torah scroll, to replace one that is 170 years old and barely legible in places.

Upon completion of the new Torah scroll, it was carried in a celebratory parade to the synagogue on Liebigstrasse.

“I have the feeling that there is no place for xenophobia and anti-Semitism in this town,” Amnon Orbach, the 85-year-old head of the

Marburg Jewish Community, told the Juedische Allgemeine. Local clergy meet regularly to discuss interfaith relations, and the imam often attends High Holy Days services, according to the report. Orbach, who is Israeli, also helped the Muslim community construct its new mosque.

Orbach also said that he did not want to see the old Torah scroll buried in the Jewish cemetery, as would be the norm. He himself had found the dusty roll in a building at the cemetery 30 years ago. It had belonged to the Jewish community of Wolfhagen, which no longer existed.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at