Fort Drum Rabbi Moshe Lans smiled widely as he accepted a Torah scroll transfer from the Congregation Beth Israel on Sunday afternoon.
Standing outside the city’s only modern orthodox synagogue, Rabbi Lans kissed the nearly 100-year-old Torah scroll, which was donated by the Congregation Beth Israel, located on Eastern Parkway, to the U.S. military through the Aleph Institute of Florida.
The Aleph Institute is a nonprofit Jewish organization that assists and cares for the wellbeing of people who are isolated from their community, including U.S. military personnel.
The institute is Rabbi Lan’s Jewish ecclesiastical endorser, and Rabbi Lans will serve as the custodian and caretaker of the scroll.
The rabbi expressed heartfelt thanks to the congregation for making the Torah scroll transfer possible.
Having another Torah scroll to be used by Jewish service members, regardless of which branch of service, will allow them to practice their faith — which he said is a force multiplier — and remain in touch with God.
“We’re very happy to do this, especially with Passover coming up,” said Congregation Beth Israel past president James Strosberg, who’s also a member of the Jewish War Veterans Post.
Strosberg said of the Torah: “The letters are 100 years old, but they haven’t changed in 2,000 years, and it’s very meaningful at this time of year, when we celebrate our exodus from Egypt, that we can give more life to the future.”
This particular Torah transfer came about when Statewide News Service President Marc Gronich was working on a story in Alexandria Bay about low rates of COVID-19, and how, in the publication’s estimation, the bay should be considered by Jews as a vacation destination.
Gronich said he wasn’t previously aware that a Jewish chaplain existed at Fort Drum, and when Gronich interviewed Rabbi Lans, he said he learned the rabbi didn’t have a Torah scroll.
Gronich said he then made arrangements with Strosberg, whom he’s known 30 years, and for the synagogue to donate theirs.
“It’s extremely important when servicemen and servicewomen come back from Afghanistan, come back from Iraq, that they have this continuity, so they don’t lose their faith in the Jewish religion,” Gronich said.
Strosberg called the Torah transfer a big deal for the synagogue.
“These Torahs are very valuable, not just spiritually, but it takes over a year to write a Torah,” he said. “Every letter is handwritten. It’s on parchment. It’s a special kind of ink. And this is the first time in my life I’ve ever been to a ceremony” for a total transfer.
Gronich said he’s referring to it as a “traveling Torah,” as the rabbi intends to take it to various military bases.
“It will definitely be able to travel throughout the world many times over,” the rabbi said. “Whether that’s to a combat forward to station, or in peacetime, the Torah will definitely be used by Jewish service members, and the world at large.”