Nusach Hari couple commissions Torah for congregation

2017 Unsung Heroes

Peggy and Jay Umansky commissioned a new Torah for their congregation, Nusach Hari B'nai Zion.

About a year ago, Nusach Hari B’nai Zion analyzed its 13 Torah scrolls, one of which was loaned to the Modern Orthodox shul on a long-term basis.

Nine of these, upon analysis, were found to be “POSSUL” or not halachically kosher. Four of the nine could be — and now have been repaired — by a sofer (a specifically trained Jewish scribe).  However, even after this work, NHBZ could not be assured that the repaired scrolls would have a life of more than 15 to 20 years.

Enter Peggy and Jay Umansky, longtime members of NHBZ, located in Olivette. Jay is president of the congregation.

“In doing research we came to realize that Nusach Hari never had a new Torah,” said Peggy. “So in talking, Jay and I decided we wanted as a legacy to commission a Torah specifically for Nusach Hari.”

The couple contacted a sofer in New York, who put them in touch with one in Haifa, Israel, who is doing the writing. The new Torah will be delivered to NHBZ on Nov. 25, which happens to be Jay’s birthday. A dedication ceremony at NHBZ is planned for Dec. 8, starting at 3:30 p.m., and the community is invited to attend.

“The writing of a Sefer Torah is the last of the 613 mitzvot outlined in the Torah,” said Jay.  “The birth of a new Torah is a cause for celebration, not just within our congregation’s membership, but across the entire Jewish community. This is an opportunity for everyone to share in this joyous occasion and participate in the final of the Torah’s mitzvot.  As written in Proverbs, the Torah is a tree of life and those who draw it near are fortunate.  We have been blessed and simply couldn’t pass up this opportunity.”

Peggy explained that the couple wanted to “leave a mark for our family and the future generations of families that come from our family.” She noted that the Torah dedication coincides with the bat mitzvah of the couple’s eldest granddaughter, which will take place at Kol Rinah the day before.

While the Umanskys paid for the new Sefer Torah, they also used its creation as a fundraiser for NHBZ. Anyone who donated $500 or more, could have the sofer write a Hebrew letter on their behalf in the Torah. The Umanskys said more than 20 people donated.

The five Torahs that couldn’t be repaired will be turned over to the sofer when he comes to St. Louis on Nov 25.  He will either find some way to make use of the kosher sections of those scrolls, or see to the proper burial of the Torahs that are beyond repair. That will leave NHBZ with nine kosher Torahs, including the one the Umanskys commissioned.

“Given today’s technology and the availability of long- lasting inks, we were told a new Torah could potentially last for hundreds of years,” said Jay.