Pentagon 9-11 Memorial Chapel Hosts Historic Torah Dedication

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Pentagon Chapel now home to Torah Scroll.

On the sacred ground at the Pentagon in the spot where on September 11, 2001 terrorists crashed a plane into the Pentagon killing 189 people, a Torah scroll now resides in an ornate Israeli-built ark whose steel door is secured by a safe lock.

Last Monday, over 150 military personnel, guests and dignitaries gathered at the Pentagon Memorial Chapel for the dedication of the Torah, recognizing the Jewish members of the U.S. Armed Forces. In front of the standing-room-only crowd, Rabbi Shmuel Wolfman of Jerusalem, completed the last letters of the scroll.

"The dedication of a Sefer Torah in the mightiest fortress in the most powerful country in the world validates true strength, which is the strength of Torah which is a moral and ethical power," said Rabbi Sholom D. Lipskar, founder and chairman of The Aleph Institute who presided over the ceremony.

The Torah dedication, a first for the home of the U.S. military establishment, was a cooperative effort between The Aleph Institute, a Miami-based national non-profit Jewish organization devoted to Jews in the military and the Pentagon. The Torah scroll was donated by Jacob "Hank" Sopher, a prominent New York real estate magnate.

"There is no better way for Jews to express their gratitude to America than to place a Torah in the Pentagon, which has preserved our freedom," said Sopher.

"The Torah is the source of all monotheistic faiths," said Dov Zakheim, former undersecretary of Defense. "That's where we all began."

In the past two years, Sopher has sponsored two other Torahs, also written by Rabbi Wolfman. One was for The Shul of Bal Harbour, Fla., the other for the Chasam Sopher Synagogue on Clinton Street on the Lower East Side. A third Torah, also sponsored by Hank Sopher, travels around the world for the use of Jewish military personnel at various military bases.

"The significance in the room was palpable," said Lipskar. "I stood next to the chief of the army chaplains and saw goose bumps on his arms. He was saying 'this is the real word of God.' He kept repeating that."

The Chief Chaplain of the Pentagon, Chaplain (Col) Ralph Benson said that, "this day is the answer to a prayer, to have the Torah, the word of God, in our building, as part of our chapel at ground zero. It is especially gratifying to hear the concerns that guests of The Aleph Institute expressed for our service men and women." "It is not just an historic event," he said, "but a blessing."

"It was an awe-striking experience," said Moshe Barouk, Aleph's Director of Operations. "The room was filled to capacity with military personnel and out of town guests all in honor and respect of this new Torah dedicated at the Pentagon (chapel)."

Chaplain Andrew J. Cohen of Bolling Air Force Base in Maryland called it a triumph of good over evil. "In this spot, where the plane struck on September 11, here we choose to place our Torah," he said in his address to the crowd. "Not as a museum piece, not on display, but to be used in worship, honored with dignity, to guide, inspire, and empower all peoples to the great cause of freedom."

"It was especially moving to complete the Torah in the place where the Pentagon itself was physically wounded, and then repaired and completed," said Major Elizabeth Robbins, a Jewish service member.

After the ceremony, rabbis, guests, chaplains, generals and military personnel gathered for a catered, glatt kosher celebratory meal -- a first for the Pentagon Executive Dining Room, preceded by the National Anthem accompanied by the Color Guard. At the dinner, a welcoming greeting was given by the President of The Aleph Institute, Lloyd S. Rubin.

Rabbi Aaron Lipskar, Executive Director of The Aleph Institute said, "The Torah dedication is a high point in The Aleph Institute's commitment and service to the United States defense forces and will always be treasured by Jews worldwide as a symbol of our freedom. It was truly a memorable experience."

For more information about The Aleph Institute, please contact Rabbi Aaron Lipskar at (305) 864-5553 or visit http://www.aleph-institute.org

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Moshe Barouk
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