Hachnasat Sefer Torah in Shiloach – TORAH AND JEWISH LIFE ARE ALIVE AND WELL – thanks to the Bergers

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In August of 1938 during the Arab pogroms in Jerusalem, the Yemenite Synagogue complex in the Shiloach was desecrated, looted, ransacked and Torah scrolls were burnt and torn. The shocking picture was forever etched in our memories by the famous picture of Shlomo Zeevi (Father of Rechavam Zeevi’s h”yd) who visited the site with British police protection, in 1939.

Today – 83 years later and thanks to the generosity and drive of Ana & Jack Yehoshua Berger from Chicago, a Sefer Torah was written and brought (“returned”) to the old Yemenite Village of Shiloach, where a fledgling Jewish community is growing year by year and month by month.Tens of families and close to a hundred beautiful children sang and danced with the Sefer Torah from Beit Yonatan, where the last few letters were written by the residents, to the original Beit Knesset complex (Lamm Beit Knesset and Yemenite Heritage center).

Daniel Luria – the Executive Director of Ateret Cohanim said that the “Bergers have been involved with many projects in the Shiloach, feeling very close to the dedicated and pioneering families in the Shiloach, who are the vital “facts on the ground” with amazing devotion (mesirut nefesh) – keeping a united Jerusalem in Jewish hands”.Although the Bergers were not able to fly into Israel and attend the joyous occasion due to the current Corona issues, the bringing of the Sefer Torah to the Shiloach, a couple of days after Simchat Torah, was perfect timing, according to Luria.

Back in 2004 and thanks to the enormous efforts of Ateret Cohanim and the Yemenite Sanctified Trust Committee, Jewish families finally returned to the area. Initially –  it was ideologically motivated Jewish investors from Canada and Israel who financed the redemption of the first two buildings (Beit HaDvash and Beit Yonatan dedicated for Jonathan Pollard) and since then, many more buildings and homes have been returned to the Jewish people. Today- there are now 35 Jewish families and a Kollel in the old Yemenite Village of Shiloach.(Including the recent acquisitions of the Shiloach Heights)It may be a “far cry” from the 150 Yemenite and Sefardi families who once thrived and lived in the village (established in 1882) at its peak before the Arab riots and pogroms of the 1920-30s, but it’s still an inspiring and beautiful start. Jewish life has indeed returned to the Shiloach.

Once the original Synagogue complex was redeemed and returned to the Yemenite Sanctified trust (Thanks primarily to the Moskowitz family), a massive renovation project was started to restore the 3 domed complex to its previous glory.The Yemenite Beit Knesset and Cultural centre project has thus far been primarily financed by private donors including the special generous Lamm family of Melbourne Australia. The Israeli Government has also invested funds as it has been recognized as an important heritage site. Unfortunately this funding has been temporarily halted by some court actions from radical left wing groups, who are still trying to divide Jerusalem and limit any or all Jewish presence in these neighborhoods in the heart of Jerusalem.More funds are needed to complete the project, so readers are encouraged to be in contact with Ateret Cohanim regarding this and other projects in and around the Old City.

“It is a huge and important Mitzvah and privilege to be able to write (or commission the writing) of a Sefer Torah and Uncle Yehoshua as he is affectionately known by the families, and his wife Ana, have now merited”, Luria said at the ceremony.”Torah life and Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel and especially, here in the heart of Jerusalem is the unbreakable eternal bond and the “winning combination” for Am Yisrael B’Ereaz Yisral”, Luria added.

The founder of Ateret Cohanim Mati Dan spoke about the importance of Torah life for the families in Kfar HaTeimanim and how the writing of another Sefer Torah for the Shiloach raises the morale and spirit of all the families. “The Torah bonds Jews all over the world from Melbourne and Chicago to the Shiloach in the heart of Yerushalayim”, Dan said. 

Mati Dan also added that such a joyous occasion following Simchat Torah and in light of the ongoing attacks over the years by some Arabs against the families, buildings and security vans over the years, is an important and uplifting occasion.

Mazal Tov Kfar Hateimanim.Thanks to Jack Yehoshua & Ana Berger 

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