Sunday, December 4, 2016

Back When a Sefer Torah Could Be Had for $130

The Congregation Ahavath Torah, Englewood, NJ - Oral History

The synagogue that we attended in Englewood when we were growing up was Congregation Ahavath Torah, which was founded in 1895.

In 1995, as part of the shul's centennial celebration, Phyllis Appleton, a member of the shul, interviewed old timers and published an oral history of the shul.

Here's a sample:

In midsummer of the year 1895, the eight Jewish inhabitants of Englewood met in the house of Jacob Reznick. They convened for the purpose of discussing the possibility of forming a Minyan for the forthcoming High Holy Days... Reverend Sher, the leader of the group, proposed that a Sefer Torah be purchased. Each present donated $10, a most generous contribution in those days, towards the Sefer Torah, making a total of $80. Rev. Sher and Israel Saben traveled to New York, where they discovered that a Torah could not be had for less than $130. They bought the Torah and agreed to pay the balance of $50 within 90 days...

In Edgewater, there lived a Jewish merchant whose child had died and the community, like Englewood, did not have a Jewish cemetery. Israel Saben, who happened to be in Edgewater on the day the death occurred, visited the bereaved father and proposed to him that the Jewish inhabitants of Englewood attend to the last rites of the child. Max Moskin and Louis Levenstein were delegated to attend to the burial. They rented a horse and buggy for the sum of four dollars, journeyed to Edgewater and with the deceased, traveled to Paterson, where they applied to the leaders of the Jewish community for permission to bury the child in their cemetery.

The Paterson Jews were moved by the sincerity of these men, and agreed to permit the burial without charge. On the day following the internment,the appreciative Jewish merchant from Edgewater presented Israel Saben with a check of $100 for the services rendered. Overjoyed, he hastened back to Englewood and presented the then fabulous sum to Rev. Sher. This occurred on the day the note was due. The $50 balance on the Sefer Torah was paid and after deducting the $4 rental for the horse and buggy, the Jewish community of Englewood had its first treasury of $46.

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