German Muslim leader helps complete writing of Torah scroll


BERLIN (JTA) — A new Torah scroll in a German city was completed with interfaith help, including from a Muslim leader.

Bilal El-Zayat, president of the Islamic Community of Marburg placed his hand atop that of Torah scribe Rabbi Josef Chranovski as he penned one of the last 15 letters of the Torah to spell out the statement “Witnessed by all Israel.”

Also joining in the ritual to mark the Marburg congregation’s 10th anniversary last week were local Protestant and Catholic clergy, as well as the central German city’s mayor and his predecessor.

“Especially at a time when agitators draw ever bigger crowds and shout, it’s more important than ever to seek moderation and show what
connects us all,” said El-Zayat, a physician, according to a report in the Juedische Allgemeine weekly.

Joining Chranovski in presiding over the event, which took place in the city archive building, were Rabbis Avremi Nussbaum and Beni Pollak, as well as members of the local Jewish community and its supporting foundation. The foundation had raised 25,000 euros — about $27,000 — for the Torah scroll, to replace one that is 170 years old and barely legible in places.

Upon completion of the scroll, it was carried in a celebratory parade to the synagogue on Liebigstrasse.

“I have the feeling that there is no place for xenophobia and anti-Semitism in this town,” Amnon Orbach, the 85-year-old head of the
Marburg Jewish Community, told the Juedische Allgemeine.

Local clergy meet regularly to discuss interfaith relations, and the imam often attends High Holidays services, according to the report. Orbach, who is Israeli, also helped the Muslim community construct its new mosque.

Orbach also said he did not want to see the old Torah scroll buried in the Jewish cemetery, as would be the norm. He had found the dusty scroll in a building at the cemetery 30 years ago. It had belonged to the Jewish community of Wolfhagen, which no longer existed.

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