A synagogue in Davis kept one foot in the past while stepping into the future Sunday, with the final five Hebrew letters of its new Torah inked in using a feather quill.
To celebrate Congregation Bet Haverim's 50th anniversary, the reform Jewish synagogue embarked on a yearlong project to scribe the Torah, which has 304,805 Hebrew letters.
A Torah scroll consists of the first five books of Moses from Genesis to Deuteronomy scribed onto sheepskin or cowhide by hand.
More than 500 synagogue members and their families contributed to the work on Bet Haverim's Torah, each person scribing a Hebrew letter by hand since October 2011. The typical life span of a Torah is at least 100 years.
The new Torah was dedicated Sunday morning at Bet Haverim, Yolo County's sole synagogue, with about 300 people attending the ceremony.
"The experience of putting quill to parchment to form a letter is not only a sacred moment, but it's an opportunity to connect with the future of the Jewish people," said Bet Haverim Rabbi Greg Wolfe. "Jews who aren't yet even born will read from this Torah, and connect with the history of our people through the letters that our families will have left behind in this Torah."
At the dedication ceremony, Bet Haverim also presented one of its Torahs to a Santa Maria synagogue, Congregacion Adat Or Yisrael, which has mainly Jews of Hispanic origin.
Many in the Santa Maria congregation have rediscovered Jewish heritage in their ancestry, while others have converted to Judaism by choice, said Wolfe.
The 4-year-old Central California synagogue did not have a Torah of its own.
The dedication had a wedding theme, marking the joining of the Torahs with the two congregations. As is customary at Jewish weddings, a cloth canopy, or chuppa, sheltered the two Torahs, and leaders of both synagogues broke a glass together.
In the early stages of the Torah scribing, called the "Tree of Life Project," Bet Haverim leaders decided to commission a female scribe, known as a soferet in Hebrew, to represent the egalitarian values of the congregation, Wolfe said.
New York City-based Jen Taylor-Friedman, the first woman documented to have completed a Torah by herself, was commissioned for the work and visited the Davis synagogue four times to closely guide Bet Haverim members as they inscribed the letters.
In between visits, she worked full-time preparing the Davis synagogue's Torah at her home studio.
The final five Hebrew letters were inked by Wolfe and four members of the congregations onto the new Torah's parchment.