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Torah completed at UC Irvine in honor of Jewish community

UC Irvine hosted a celebration Monday to mark the completion of a Torah scroll written in honor of the university's Jewish community.

About 50 people gathered at the campus Cross Cultural Center to hear Rabbi Zevi Tenenbaum of UCI's Rohr Chabad lead the celebration.

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Guests watched as an expert scribe helped guide Tenenbaum's grandfather Leibel Groner in writing the final letters of the Torah, the central text of Judaism, representing Jewish law and teachings. A procession followed outside, with song and dance.

The document — dubbed the Unity Torah — was primarily completed at Hebron in Palestine, south of Jerusalem. Tenenbaum said he gave the finishing honors to his grandfather because his mother was born in Hebron, one of Judaism's sacred cities.

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The scroll's Hebrew text is written on parchment of leather — broken down over time — from a kosher animal. The ink used to handwrite the 304,805 letters was created by hand for the occasion.

The Torah will be kept at the Rohr Chabad and be used in religious services.

The project was initiated four years ago by Irvine resident Brett Friedman, who is close friends with Tenenbaum. Financial help from alumni, current students and community members helped bring the project to fruition.

Groner said the Unity Torah would bring a special peace to the university.

Tensions have lingered in recent years among several groups, including the Muslim Student Union, Students Supporting Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine.

In May, a protest led by a Palestinian support group interrupted an on-campus event presented by an Israeli support group.

Matthias Lehmann, director of UCI's Center for Jewish Studies, said Monday's celebration was not a response to the tensions but a statement signifying that Jews are part of the university's family, despite differing political opinions.

Lehmann called the Torah a "real feature" for Jewish life on campus.

Twitter: @vegapriscella

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