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May 10, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 10, 2013 I Torah navigation leads to new journeys By Edmon J. Rodman LOS ANGELES (JTA)--On Shavuot, we celebrate being given the Five Books of Moses by opening the gift and read- ing from the scroll. But first we need to find the place. How do we find our place in the Torah? Newbies to the ways of a Torah scroll will soon real- ize that unlike the mass- produced technological marvels that bring order and wonder into their lives, this handmade inspiration comes wifhout an operating manual. As I discovered the first time I tried to find m'/ place, the perfect columns of scribed, unvoweled Hebrew can seem like a phone book without page numbers in a foreign language. For many, the only time we may have wanted to find our place in the Torah was at our bar or bat mitzvah--and even then someone showed us. But what if as adults we want to find our way back into the Torah--on our own? What if we want to find not only the correct place from which to read but a place to call our own? There's no app for that-- yet. "The scope would be lim- ited," said Russel Neil, a Jew- ish educator and technologist who described himself as the "coding monkey" behind PocketTorah. The smart- phone app has the text of the Torah and haftarah in Hebrew and translated, as well as with the sound of By Steve Dorsey The Media Line ISTANBUL--As visitors heave open the thick, vault-like metal door to the Neve Shalom Synagogue on a discreet side street in the Galata neighbor- hood of European Istanbul, a skittish guard confronts them. Guests are shuttled through secure, windowless rooms to an X-ray machine and metal detector. Pockets are emptied and passports surrendered. The guard questions the rea- son for the visit and the guests' ethnicity. He then'determines whether they can be allowed through. It's hardlyawelcoming expe- rience, even as the city's largest and most symbolic synagogue says it is open to tourists'and foreign Jews during a several- hour period most days. But visitors who actually make it to the synagogue's inner-sanctumwillseewhy the temple is so heavily guarded. Bullet holes pierce awooden chair inside, just s_teps from the sacred Torah scrolls. They mark the site of a terrorist attack in 1986 where Palestin- ian gunmen opened fire on worshipers, killing 22. The temple was the scene of other attacks as well, including a car bombing in November 2003targetingseveral Istanbul synagogues during weekly Sabbath prayers. The attack claimed 30 lives and 146 people were wounded. Authorities suspected al-Qaidawas behind the attacks. Just last month, it was revealed that an Istanbul syna- gogue, along with the United States embassy in Ankara, were how they are chanted and Rabbis,theplacecanbefound commentary, by looking for clues such as Asked about an app that gaps, familiar words or even lets you find your place in the sections. Torah, he said it would "get "The Ten Commandments in the way of the actual thing and Haazinu are written in a you want to be doing," think- special way," she added, the ing of the tactile experience latter beingthe Torah portion of confronting the text and featuring the Song of Moses. grabbing hold of the wooden "Whether a person considers rollers, the etz chaim, the Torah to be God's words But is the absence of an or a foundation text, it's the app the only thing keeping som'ceofwhoweareasJews, usfrombeingabletonavigate and reading from it is a big the source of our spiritualit? responsibility.", Severalyearsago, atthecon- Fenton suggests starting clusionofaparadewelcoming with a Jewish calendar to a new Torah scroll to our small find the week's portion and congregation, the Movable. then going to a tikkun--a Minyan, was when I began to guidebook for Torah readers get my Torah bearings, with Hebrew text as it appears The plan was to conclude in the Torah scroll in one theeventwithareadingofthe column and with vowels and Shema from the new stroll, singing marks in another-- However, just as we entered to narrow the search. the room, the one person But the Movable Minyan knowledgeable enough to had no tikkun and noexperi- find the place told us she had ence, since the taskofsetting an appointmont and regret- the place in the Torah was fully had to leave, typically done by an expert. Whatnow?Wedidn'tknow So how did a group of the place, and there are no Torah rookies manage? By bookmarks that come with navigatingwithourcollective a Torah. Jewish educations. We knew However, as we discov- theShemawasintheTorah's ered that. day, and as I was last book, Deuteronomy-- reminded recently by Rabbi Devirim, in Hebrew--and Patricia Fenton of American from a prayer book that it Jewish University, "you take was found in an early chapter. what guideposts you can" The current place was in finding your place in the somewhere near the middle, scroll. Fenton is the manager and since Hebrew reads from of Judaica and public services right to left, wewould need to at her Los Angeles school's roll more up on the right roll- library and a rabbinic studies er to get to the last book. As adviser, we rolled, we noted the large According to Fenton, who gaps in text upon reaching was named recently by the the end of Leviticus-Vayikra, Jewish Daily Forward as one then Numbers-Bamidbar, of America's Most Inspiring until we reached Devarim. PAGE 15A Edmon J. Rodman For beginners seeking their place-in the Torah scroll, a tikkun, or guidebook, provides an excellent navigational tool. neys have used navigational aids--notes written on scraps of paper, photocopy enlarge- ments, even Post-its--to find their place. More than an exercise or of word search, it became a matter of truly taking ownership of the text. There are times, however, when we open the scroll and someone has forgotten to advance it from the previous Shabbat. In those moments of being lost--and it does feel like being physically lost-- and amid the pressure to find your way, words become land- marks, even the guideposts of which Fenton spoke. "These are the words," the book begins. After slowly scrolling over several more columns, and finding the oversized letter ayin in the Shema, we had found our place. Since then, I have found, like other novice readers, you can find your place by count- ing the columns of text in the tikkun from the beginning of a book, or the portion--the count will be the same in the Torah scroll. Later, as the He- brew grew more familiar, key words and phrases became my guide. Others in the minyan beginning their Torah jour- Turkey's Jews worship quietly includedonanal-Qaida-linked ern Turkey--granted Jewish apology as a diplomatic vic- security-conscious Israelis. hit list uncovered in computer scientists and teachers refuge tory. International observers "Can you imagine, going files found in a raid on two from Nazi Germany. praised the move as a positive to pray and we have an army Turkishhornes.Thexaidnettd Even today kosher varieties step in helping to stabilize a protecting us?" he said, refer- 12 suspects in the foiled plot, ofthetraditionaldessertcalled fractured,region, even as Tur- ringtotheusualsightofguards according to Turkish news Turkish delightand coffee can key continues to build its own stationed outside Turkish reports, be found here, and the Jewish relationshipwiththeemerging synagogues, bomb-blastdoors, "That's the burden we have community works to protect Palestinian state, and temple checkpoints unfa-" to go through because we're their culture, provide quality Soon after the apology was miliar to Jews in many other Jewish," said Sami Magriso, education for their children issued, the Turkish" prime parts of the world. wholeadsforeignersonhistori- andremembertheirhistoryas minister's office released a At this moment, it seems cal tours here. modernization rapidly sweeps statement promising to use as if the only immediate ef- In this country of68 million through the country, the repaired relationship to fect Israel's apology has been Muslims, Istanbu|'s shrinking l'stanbul's museum of Jew- help solve the Israel-Palestine diplomatic. community of 25,000 Jews ish history continues to sing conflict: "Therelationshipisbetween shuns attention and often the praises of Turkey's toler- In the statement Erdo an governments," Simehtof El, keeps a low profile, ance and religious freedom. "reiteratedTurkey'ssupportfor a Jewish Turk who runs an "As our synagogues unfor- But recent terror threats to all international and regional antiques store in Istanbul's tunately had been attacked in Turkey'ssmallJewishcommu- efforts to find a just, lasting famed Grand Bazaar, told The the past there are always tight nitysignalanongoingstruggle and comprehensive resolution Media Line. security measures," Deniz and an uncertain future, oftheIsrael-Palestineconflict Hidden in his collection Saporta, spokesperson for "This is a country which is on the basis of the two-state are two metal m.enorahs for Turkey's Chief Rabbinate told secular, democratic and mod- vision." the holiday of Chanukah and The Media Line. ernizing, but we still have a lot Beyond rebuilding diplo- "Of course it's not fair," tour of work to do," Magriso Said. matic ties between the two guideMagrisosaid."Therewas TurkishJewshavealsobeen countries, Turks hoped the a time when synagogues were affected by the tensions in apology will restore lucrative open" like mosques. Of course relations between Israel and Israeli tourism to the country. I miss those times." Turkey after the deadly 2010 One Israeli analyst based in Magriso is a proud Turk raid by Israeli troops on the Turkey told the semi-official with a large red Turkish flag Mavi Marmara, a Gaza-bound news agency here he expects tattooed on his left forearm, aid flotilla from Turkey, trying t-he move to draw more visitors He is not afraid to talkabout to breach Israel's naval block- from the holy land as soon as his religion, butacknowledges ade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza this summer. many other Jews here are Strip. Eight Turks and one Some here, like Jewish- fearful. Turkish-Americanwerekilled. Turkish tour guide Sami The irony is that for centu- Dozens ofotherswereinjured. Magriso, said they have seen ries the Ottoman Empire was At one point, Turkey even little impact from the nor- a safe haven for Jews, inviting expelled the Israeli ambas- realization of relations and thousands to settle here when sador in Ankara. List month, no increase in Israeli tourists. theywere expelled from Spain Turkish Prime Minister Recep Israelis "don't know this in 1492 by King Ferdinandand Tayyip Erdo an called Zionism country, they don't know the Queen Isabella. a "crime against humanity." people in the country," and Jews established the first Many here heralded news they are afraid to travel here, printing presses in Turkey of a U.S.-brokered apology hesaid. andwere deeply involved with from Israel's Prime Minister Unlike many tourism indus- commerce and international Benjamin Netanyahu to TUr- try leaders, Magriso does not trade.Theircommunitieswere key. Israel has now promised expectawaveofIsraelivisitors lefttogovernthemselvesunder compensation to the victims' soon, which he blamed partly' the Empire. families, on the safety concerns for Ataturk--thefatherofmod- Turkish leaders "hailed the Jewshere,whichresonatewith On one of those rolling mornings, yad in hand, I was looking for the right "va'yidaber" in the book of Exodus, Shemot--many of its verses begin with the word, as in "va'yidaber Elo- him," "and God spoke." The word began to loom large as I scanned past one after another. In the moments it took to find the right word and my place, I felt the Torah was speaking to me as well. Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at eclmojace@ a hand-drawn Hebrew wall piece in a dark corner--the extent of the Judaica in his shop named after his daughter Ziva. He said his store is one of the few with authentic--yet limitedJewish art pieces, in a market crowded with Islamic and even Christian artwork. E1 said his family has been here for 500 years. Despite the improved relationship between Turkey and Israel, like Magriso, he does not expect a flood of Israeli visitors. Yet even in this country that values its renewed friendship with Israel, as the Islamic call- to-prayer trumpets through the ancient markets in one of the world's largest former empires, it is as if the Torah is read with a whisper. UYER 1 st Choicej00Iome Companion Services "Touching our Customer's fives one at a time" Best Prices Quality Services 555 Winderley Place Ste. 300 Maitland, FL. 32751 Call 321.594.3579 24 hrs./7 Days a Week www. 1 Caring for you in your home