‘Charmed’ Torah Finds A New Resting Place

OBJECTS OF OUR AFFECTION

By Judith A. Sokoloff

Published February 28, 2003, issue of February 28, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Jersey City PATH station, around 1 in the morning, Sunday, a few years back. It’s quiet down in the subway — small groups of tired visitors chat as they wait for the train back to Manhattan.

A young man comes flying down the stairs, sooty-faced, wild-eyed and disheveled. “Is there a Jew here?” he asks anxiously. Nobody pays attention. My Jewish companions look down at their feet. In those five seconds I take to make a decision, my mind races: “If I say I’m Jewish, will he stab or shoot me — or is there a Jew somewhere who needs another Jew?” I can’t ignore him, I have to trust him, and I’m fiercely curious.

“I’m Jewish,” I say. He thrusts out a clenched fist, opening his hand to reveal a tiny metal Torah. “Here, take this,” he says. “I’m renovating a house and found this behind a wall.” I’m stunned and thrilled. I tell him I’m very grateful that he’s gone so far out of his way at this crazy hour to find a Jew.

The Torah is a girl’s bracelet charm, I think, or more likely a pendant. Timeworn and nicked, it is a brownish-gold color, decorated with a Star of David, an eyelet on top. I picture the girl, some 50 or 60 years ago, frantically looking behind her bureau, around her room, under the bed, seeking the Torah that her grandmother had given her. Or maybe she didn’t even realize it was missing. Or perhaps she flung it away — a defiant act of assimilation or anger. Does she think of it now?

I carry the little Torah around with me all the time. It’s my lucky charm, even though I don’t believe in lucky charms — one of my many paradoxical opinions. It’s more important to me than my own childhood collection of golden Jewish jewelry, tucked away in a closet. It’s a symbol of my still-growing pride and outspokenness about being Jewish, and a confirmation that the world is tilted toward goodness. It’s a symbol of my ever-evolving relationship to Judaism, of the slow withering away of a determined atheist from the age of 8. It’s the symbol of a doubter’s tears, listening to my son’s bar mitzvah class singing, “It’s the Tree of Life to those who hold fast to it.”

I wish I could tell you that amazingly I met the girl who lost her tiny Torah. It would make a good ending: The two of us meet in a women’s Midrash class — she tells me her story, I tell her mine. About how we lost our Torahs and how we got them back.

Judith Sokoloff is the editor of Na’amat Woman.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Yeshiva University's lawyer wanted to know why the dozens of former schoolboys now suing over a sexual abuse cover-up didn't sue decades ago. Read the judge's striking response here.
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.