Jewish community celebrates Simchat Torah, dedicates new ark

Ch. (Capt.) Karyn Berger (right) uses her yad, or Torah pointer, to highlight a specific passage on the scroll during the Simchat Torah celebration and ark unveiling on October 1. Photo by Bardia Khajenoori, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs.

Story and photos by Bardia Khajenoori
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

The Stuttgart Jewish Community dedicated a new Torah ark in a ceremony held at the Panzer Chapel and attended by nearly two dozen congregants and guests, Oct. 1. The dedication coincided with Simchat Torah, a holiday marking the end of the annual cycle of Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle.

Cmdr. Matthew Krauz presents the wrapped Torah scrolls to attendees after its removal from the ark.
Photo by Bardia Khajenoori, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs.

Wiesbaden-based Ch. (Capt.) Karyn Berger led the group through a number of songs and prayers before the Torah scroll was removed from the ark, presented to the congregation, and partially unrolled on a set of long tables. Berger, chaplain for the 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 214th Avn. Regiment, then read and translated different passages of the Hebrew script, explaining their significance and frequently eliciting input from a number of attentive youngsters.

The scroll is an intricate, fragile document handwritten on parchment to strict specifications; it is kept in an ark (similar to a large ornamental cupboard) for safekeeping when not being used.

“Torah is the most holy object in Judaism, to be treated with respect and reverence,” said Erick Posner, Stuttgart Jewish Community lay leader. “It requires (and deserves) a good home where it can rest comfortably, just like a human being deserves a good home.” If a person’s home eventually becomes worse for wear, Posner explained, “then it’s time to find a new home or rebuild,” and the same concept applies to an ark.

The process of procuring new arks—one each for the Patch and Panzer chapels, so that a single ark no longer has to be moved for each service—was complicated and lengthy.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” said Ch. (Col.) James Boulware, garrison chaplain.

The Torah scroll is handwritten on parchment to strict specifications. Photo by Bardia Khajenoori, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs.

A replacement couldn’t arrive soon enough for Naama Krauz, who leads Shabbat services and weekly Hebrew School for children.

“The old ark was difficult to use and not very functional, especially in the space that we have,” she said. “This is a much easier, much more accessible way to access what we need, and it means so much to have it.”

The old ark will be donated to the area’s civilian Jewish community, which will place it in a synagogue in need of one.