How Did The Aquarian Minyan Get our First Torah?
By Reuven Goldfarb and Ljuba Davis
I remember the events around the acquisition of the Minyan's Torah well. I brought my godparents Marie and Lew Winston to Barry and Debby's wedding and that was Marie's first exposure to the Minyan. When she found out that the Minyan did not have a Torah of its own she told me, "This is what I've been waiting for, finding the right community who would welcome a Torah as its own and really treasure it!" When she heard that there was a Torah available in SF we went together to look at it----and she fell in love with it!
Marie's parents were orthodox (from Tacoma, Washington) and her father was the rabbi of a little shul. Marie's mother donated a Torah to her husband's shul years before when Marie was a child and, as Marie had told me on numerous occasions, she knew that someday she would do the same thing - She just needed to find the right community for her to fulfill this mitzvah. For, though they were long-time sustaining members of Cong. Beth Abraham of Oakland during Rabbi Shulweiss's rabbinate there, Marie felt that CBA had many Torahs and was not in need of another one!
I have pictures of my 6 year-old daughter Sabrina holding one of the poles of the chuppah during the Torah's procession down Bancroft Avenue.
As I recall, Ljuba Davis invited her friends Marie and Lou Winston to attend Barry and Debby's wedding at the Brazil Room in Tilden Park on Labor Day in 1976. They were greatly impressed by the spirit of that event. Two days later, Ljuba and Leo hosted Sheva Braches at their home on College Avenue. At some point during the festivities, Marie announced that she wanted to donate a Sefer Torah to our community. She said that her mother had donated a Torah to a synagogue, many years before, and that she, Marie, had always harbored the intention of performing the same mitzvah herself.
She went on to say that she had visited many synagogues, but all of them were replete with Sifrei Torah and therefore had no need of an additional one. Our community however, despite its evident spiritual wealth, did not have even one. She was delighted, therefore, to have happened upon the Aquarian Minyan, through the offices of her good friends Ljuba and Leo, and thought that we were the perfect place for her intentions to manifest. She was prepared to spend her own money, earned from the spiritual counseling work she did, to purchase a suitable Sefer Torah for us.
Burt Jacobson, Sue Goldberg, Yehudit and I went shopping for a Sefer Torah for the Minyan. At the time there was a Hebraica/Judaica bookstore located in the Richmond District of San Francisco, owned by a sofer (a scribe), Rabbi Reisman, who had recently moved there, with his wife, from Brooklyn. He offered us two Sifrei Torah, and we chose the older one. He repaired it, obtained a pair of axle-trees and attached the scroll to them, included a new mantel, and placed it in our hands.
We held a welcoming ceremony at the Berkeley Hillel Foundation on January 22nd, 1978, the 14th of Shevat, one day before T"U b'Shvat, the New Year of the Trees. Our friend Arieh Lev Breslow, and a violinist performed at the event, and among the speakers were Rabbi Burt Jacobson and Rabbi Yosef Langer of CHaBaD. Marie and Lou formally presented the Sefer Torah to the Minyan, with Yehudit and I receiving this gift on behalf of the community. Afterwards a crowd of us carried the Torah, under a chuppah, in procession down Bancroft Avenue, with Sara Shendelman singing and playing guitar.
These are the highlights as I remember them. I'm sure that others who were present can add to these recollections.
Reuven Goldfarb, writing from Tzfat
May 5th, 2017 / 9 Iyar, 5777