By James O'Rourke, The Journal News
CHESTNUT RIDGE — Nicky Zion waited in a line Monday night to have a single letter written for her family and, to her, it was entirely worth the wait.
"I just think it's so special because it's not every day you get to do this," said the 41-year-old Valley Cottage resident. "I think it's just a very special thing to happen to you."
Zion was one of about 100 local Jews to take part in the completion of the Chabad Jewish Enrichment Center's new Torah scroll.
Rabbi Chaim Zvi Ehrenreich, director of the Chabad Center, said that each of the 600,000 letters in the Torah has a connection to a Jewish soul and that writing a full Torah is actually considered a mitzvah, a good deed, required by the Jewish text.
"Most people don't ever do that in its entirety," he said. "And so today, every family that's here is going to have the opportunity to have one letter inscribed for them."
The Chabad Center, at 6 Whitefield Road in Chestnut Ridge, is part of the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement to promote Judaism among all Jews and was opened in 2001, Ehrenreich said. Since its inception, the group has used older Torah scrolls on loan from other Jewish organizations during their observances.
The Torah scroll completed Monday was donated by the Tseytin family of Saddle River, N.J. The scroll, written by a trained scribe in feather and ink, took about a year to complete. Ehrenreich described the donation of the scroll as "very, very generous" and estimated its cost to be between $25,000 and $50,000.
"The religious meaning of it is beyond that," he said. "This is the Torah that's handed down from generation to generation to generation from Mount Sinai until today. We're going forward now. This is here for the next 50 years, for the next generation. It's very, very special."
The ceremony couldn't have come at a more fitting time. Shavuot, which begins tonight, is the Jewish holiday during which Moses was given the Torah at Mount Sinai 3,322 years ago by the Jewish calendar.
Monday's simcha, or celebration, included a series of traditional Jewish observances such as the picking up and tying of the Torah. Throughout the entire event, guests ate and drank, and danced to music.
Ella Tseytin said she is a spiritual person, but not overly religious. She said one reason, among many, that she and her husband, Michael, donated the text was to honor her father, Yakov Shtivelman, who died two years ago.
Tseytin said the family wanted to remember Shtivelman, whom she described as an "amazing person" who "believed in people," and the family hoped that the people of Chabad would pray for him as they read from the new Torah scroll.
She also said that, after consulting with another rabbi, her family decided that it would be a good idea to help a Jewish group in need.
"The idea was to do something good for someone and to feel good doing it," she said. "Maybe it was a little bit selfish, but the idea was to bring something good to somebody else."
Photo: Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News