Centuries-old Torah from Germany finds a home in Bay Area

A 450-year-old sefer Torah, homeless for perhaps 65 years, has come home to Berkeley for the High Holy Days. This weekend at Aquarian Minyan’s Rosh Hashanah services at John Muir School, 2955 Claremont Ave., the sefer Torah will be read from for the first time since before the Shoah.

After World War II, the Torah was sent to a warehouse in Israel. It was eventually acquired by A-1 Sofrim, a company on New York’s Lower East Side, which repaired it. A donor purchased it for the East Bay Jewish Renewal congregation without knowing of its history.

Scribes believe the Torah probably originated in southern Germany. About the same age as the congregation’s original Torah, the scroll contains some of the same unusual calligraphy and ornamentation, which the scribes at A-1 Sofrim refer to as “kabbalistic letters,” including a pey with spirals.

Two Minyan council members, the newly engaged couple Devorah Hoffman and Eliyahu Lotzar, brought the Torah from New York to the East Bay, where it was welcomed at a July Shabbat celebration.

Aquarian Minyan’s Yom Kippur services will be held at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave., Berkeley. For a complete schedule, go to www.aquarianminyan.org, or call (510) 869-3510 or (510) 655-8530.