Crowds dance in Fleischmanns to welcome new Torah

Above: Members of Fleischmanns' summer Spinka community accompany a new Torah to their synagogue on Main Street.

Hundreds of members of the Spinka community of Hasidic Jews led by Grand Rabbi Abraham Horowitz gathered on Sunday, Aug. 9 to welcome the arrival of a new sefer Torah—a handwritten copy of the holiest text in Judaism—to a synagogue in the Delaware County village of Fleischmanns.

“It was a very special occasion,” said Yossi Green, a spokesman for the community. “All the people were wearing their Shabbos garb, something that we only wear on Saturday and high holidays, because this occasion was so special.”

Above: The Torah procession on Sunday, Aug. 9 in Fleischmanns. Contributed photo. 

Portions of Depot Street and Main Street were closed to traffic as men carried the new Torah under a chuppah canopy to the community’s synagogue. A large crowd danced in the street as music.

Later that evening, a celebratory feast was held at the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, according to Green.

Estimates of the crowd by witnesses ranged from “several hundred” to 500. The New York State Police, which provided crowd control services for the event, did not return a call asking for a crowd estimate.

Even at the low end of the the crowd estimates, the event almost doubled the population of the village, which is home to about 350 people year-round.

The Torah, a scroll made of cow hide bearing the words of Old Testament as told to Moses on Mount Sinai, was donated by a devout member of the community, Green said. It took more than a year to make—every word was written by hand using a feather and ink.

“The Spinka community in Fleischmanns does have existing Torahs, but they’ve never had a new one inaugurated and brought into the synagogue,” Green said. “This is first for us.”

Above: Loudspeakers playing music were part of the procession. Contributed photo. 

For most of the year, the Spinka community is based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But in the summer, Rabbi Horowitz and many families of his followers escape the heat in second homes in Fleischmanns. The village’s former school is now a yeshiva where young men of the community study religious texts, and their synagogue is located at the end of Main Street.

That’s where the procession ended on Sunday, when the new Torah was formally installed. It will be used during the community’s prayer services.

The community will move back to Williamsburg when the weather cools, and the new Torah will come too, Green said.

“The rabbi personally wanted to thank the mayor of Fleischmanns, Don Kearney, and the village trustees, the code enforcement officer Patrick Davis and the entire State Police Force,” Green said.