A Conservative synagogue in Los Angeles has taken in Torah scrolls from other Jewish institutions that are in the path of a major fire sweeping through the city.
Scrolls from Leo Baeck Temple, Stephen Wise Temple, the American Jewish University, the Skirball Cultural Center and the Milken Community Schools were relocated to Valley Beth Shalom for safekeeping.
Rabbi Noah Farkas of Valley Beth Shalom said there were 23 Torah scrolls being kept at his synagogue.
“It came together more or less in the moment,” Farkas told the Forward. “I woke up at 5:00 AM and the sky was orange and my house smelled like smoke. I started calling my friends to make sure they’re okay.”
Rabbis told the Jewish Journal of the treacherous journeys they had to take to save the scrolls.
“We went basically building-to-building, turned off the gas, power and took all the Torah scrolls down to Valley Beth Shalom,” said Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback of Stephen Wise.
“The fires were literally right on top of us,” Rabbi Ken Chasen of Leo Baeck added.
Farkas told the Forward that his synagogue had plans in place to care for congregants affected by the fires. “Anyone in the evacuation zones, we sent calls, emails and texts to make sure everyone was okay,” he said. “So once you know that your folks are being taken care of, who’s going to take care of the Torahs?”
Farkas pointed out that while the Jewish community can often be divided, “In times of crisis, that all goes out the window, the shared humanity comes to the fore, and what unites us is a beautiful sense of solidarity…It’s what we do for each other.”
Many Jewish synagogues and schools in the area have closed for safety, and some families had to be evacuated. Sinai Temple in Westwood was offering itself as a shelter for evacuees, the Jewish Journal reported.
Update 6:40 p.m.: This piece was updated with quotes from Rabbi Noah Farkas.