Two hundred people danced through the Cairns, Australia suburb of Kewarra Beach this Sunday accompanied by a live band, a passel of photographers, and a ritual canopy. The center of all that attention? A brand-new Torah scroll.
The gathering had all the markings of a typical “siyum sefer Torah,” a Torah completion ceremony, but it was a unique experience for the residents of the tropical destination that borders the Great Barrier Reef.
A scribe was flown in from Melbourne to complete the writing of the scroll, which is a first for the region and has been welcomed with much excitement by community members.
“What an incredible day for our community in Cairns,” Shira David Stern of Kewarra Beach shared with Australian publication J-Wire. “We now have our very own Torah . . . 5,777 years of tradition is alive and beating in tropical Far North Queensland.”
The Torah scroll will serve Northern Queensland’s approximately 1,000 Jews, as well as the many tourists and Israeli backpackers who travel through the region.
The project was spearheaded by Chabad emissaries Ari and Mushkie Rubin, who moved down to Cairns in 2016 to direct Chabad of North Queensland.
“The community came out in droves to welcome the Torah,” describes Rabbi Rubin. “This small town had never seen anything like it . . . Until now, we had been relying on borrowed [Torah scrolls] from [synagogues in] other cities, but we finally have our own. It really is the foundation of our growing community.”
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning attended the ceremony, where he was impressed by the heartwarming procession. “Just a s[h]ort note to say how much I appreciated being invited to Sunday’s ‘Torah’ dedication ceremony,” he later wrote Rabbi Rubin, adding that “I look forward to the Jewish community playing an active part in the affairs of this city.”
To learn more about Chabad in Queensland, visit www.chabadnorthqueensland.com.