By Bryna Zumer
"The Torah is the essence of all learning and all education," said Shoshana Cardin, co-founder of the Cardin school, after the dedication ceremony Oct. 30.
The Baltimore school's Torah "gives us the sense of stability to know that Jewish learning and teaching will continue," she said. "It is important to know what our roots and beliefs are. So, to have your own (Torah) is a precious, precious gift."
Both Cardin's and Chabad's hand-written scrolls, completed by traditional quill during the dedication ceremonies, have distinctive histories.
Cardin's Torah is one of 200 that were found in the basement of a monastery in Kiev, Ukraine, and rescued by Rabbi Menachem Youlus of Baltimore, head of the Rockville-based Save a Torah foundation, which restores and re-settles hidden, lost or stolen Torahs from around the world.
It was originally from Turno, Poland, a highly pluralistic town with a once-thriving Jewish community that was wiped out by the Nazis during World War II -- an appropriate possession for the independent, pluralistic Cardin School, said Youlus, an Orthodox rabbi.
"You had everybody from the rights to the lefts (in Turno) and they lived in harmony, and that is what I want with this Torah. I want it to live in harmony," he told the audience of students, parents and faculty members.
The school's gift was funded by Shoshana Cardin's friends Irene and Bernie Siegel, in memory of their parents, Dora and Joseph Siegel and Etta and David Fishman.
The scroll at Chabad, an Owings Mills branch of the worldwide Hassidic outreach movement Chabad-Lubavitch, was rescued from St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1969 by the father of Chabad's Rabbi Nochum Katsenelenbogen.
The 100-year-old Torah was one of the few things his father, Rabbi Moshe Katsenelenbogen, took when he left St. Petersburg -- then Leningrad -- for England in 1971.
The elder rabbi, now 77, had been involved in the underground Jewish synagogues of the former Soviet Union and was jailed for more than seven years for "being a good person," Katsenelenbogen said of his father.
"He risked his life to rescue the Torah before it was totally destroyed," he said. After leaving, "he had a vision, he had a hope that he wanted his children to one day do the same work that he suffered for."
The Torah's restoration was sponsored by Manfred and Lisl Goldschmidt.
At Chabad's Nov. 2 dedication, which drew about 60 people, several residents said the donation was an example of Katsenelebogen's commitment to the area.
"We are just thrilled, and the rabbi does wonderful things in the community," said Richard Nudelman, of Owings Mills.
Jared Ezra, of Reisterstown, said the Torah represents Jewish perseverance throughout history.
"It's that continuation from generation to generation," he said.
His parents, Michael and Zillah, added that their family members were killed in the Holocaust, but the dedication was a reminder that Judaism lives on.
"It is such a positive event," Zillah Ezra said. "The Torah's story is unbelievable."