25 Feb Torah in the Land of Fire and Ice
Last week, history was made. The Jewish Community of Iceland in Reykjavík led by Rabbi Avi and Mushky Feldman received their very own Torah – the first dedicated and donated to the Jews of Iceland.
Nearly two years ago, the Feldmans began their journey and shlichus, and settled in Reykjavík. They knew the uphill challenges they faced, but went forward with full force. Through Hashem’s help and their perseverance, they are seeing the fruits of their labor. Iceland has an estimated 200 Jews, but Rabbi Feldman, through his outreach, believes there to be more than double that.
Over a year ago, Rabbi Feldman was contacted by one of the most incredible people I am fortunate to know, Adina Krausz. Living in Zurich, Switzerland, Adina, who always plans ahead, was trying to come up with the perfect gift to celebrate her husband, Uri’s, 50th birthday. It couldn’t just be a simple get together, it needed to be special, and with meaning.
Adina decided to surprise Uri with a Sefer Torah written in his honor. To top it off, Adina wanted it to go to a community in need of a Torah, a community yearning for one of their own. Until last week, Rabbi Feldman and his community along with all the Jewish tourists had to make due with a Torah that was temporarily on loan. Most often people dedicate a Torah to a local shul or community that they are connected with, but the Krausz family decided to go to a place where it was needed. When the invitations went out, the reactions of friends were either: “Iceland! So cool!!” or “Iceland?!? That’s crazy!” From there on, tickets were booked and plans were made.
To add to the excitement, a week before the trip, we were notified that the United States Ambassador to Iceland was inviting us all to a special reception at his official residence in honor of this historic milestone. Ambassador Jeffery Ross Gunter who is Jewish was excited about the Torah. The Ambassador was most welcoming and was honored with writing the first letter in the Torah, followed by the Krausz Family.
The Ambassador spoke of President Trump’s commitment to Freedom of Religion along with his support of the Jewish Community. He affirmed that it was this commitment to religious freedom that enabled such a reception. The evening was then concluded by the Ambassador reciting Kaddish at the end of Maariv, followed by singing and dancing. The remaining letters of the Torah were completed at the Hachnasat Sefer Torah a few days later.
The Hachnasat Sefer Torah festivities continued through Shabbat. The excitement was tangible and the chizuk felt in the community was inspiring. We celebrated another “first” for Iceland that Shabbat, with the aufruf of Uri and Adina’s son, Yossi. The energy from Shabbat continued through to Sunday as we gathered to complete the Torah and begin the singing and dancing. It was truly a sight to see all the visitors and Jewish locals marching down the central street of Reykjavík under a chuppah with the New Torah and the Torah on loan. Crowds of onlookers stopped and watched, smiling and in awe – something to truly behold. Some of the people along the streets approached members of the procession to inform that they, too, were Jewish. The Kiddush Hashem was incredible!
Aside from the Hachnasat Sefer Torah, Iceland was the trip of a lifetime. From glaciers, to geysers, waterfalls to hotsprings, every day there were different breathtaking sites to see and the opportunity to recite the bracha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereshit” again and again. Imagine being in a freezing place covered in icicles and yet seeing pools of water boiling at 212 degrees Fahrenheit heated by volcanic lava! Incredible!
However, the best part was celebrating the Torah and it’s meaning to the Jews in a magical place called Iceland – the Land of Fire and Ice.