IN TEMPLE, A FAMILY SURPRISED, MOVED BY A TORAH DEDICATION.
NEWHALL -- When Mike Atkin heard his mother's name read during Kaddish, a Jewish ceremony honoring the dead, he thought perhaps his father was making a surprise visit to Temple Beth Ami's Shabbat service Friday for the June anniversary of his wife's death.
But when fellow congregant Al Ponce walked into the temple bearing a new Torah, a tribute four months in the making was revealed and the tears began to flow.
``He walked in and brought it right to me,'' Atkin said.
With his children Lindsey and Matt at his side, Mike Atkin learned that the Torah, a scroll of the Bible's first five books, was being presented to the temple in the memory of Nancy Ruth Atkin, his mother.
``A lot of Friday night is a blur,'' he said. ``I was crying, my sister was crying, everybody was asking my wife for tissues. It was very emotional.''
Estimated to be nearly 500 years old, this Torah, made of soft deerskin and slightly frayed around the edges, was purchased by Atkin's father during a temple pilgrimage to Israel in February.
``Rabbi (Mark) Blazer had mentioned that one of his dreams was to have a Torah from Israel in our temple,'' Atkin said.
``When we were in Israel, he told us our tour guide had found one and offered people an opportunity to pitch in toward its purchase. What I didn't know was that my father had already made arrangements with him to buy the Torah. Everybody on the trip was in on the secret except our family.''
Atkin said his father bought the Torah not only to honor his wife's memory, but to recognize the family's dedication to the temple.
The Torah, the fourth in Temple Beth Ami's ark, is the oldest and the only one not printed on parchment.
``It's very unusual to find one made of deerskin,'' Atkin said, carefully unrolling the scrolls, slowing where repairs have been made over the years. ``Rabbi said that this will be reserved for reading on the High Holy days.''
Matt Atkin was bar mitzvahed in 2005 and as part of his ceremony, presented a yod (``hand'' used for keeping the reader's place, as the face of a Torah is not to be touched) to the Stein family, who donated a Torah in their mother's name in 2004. The Steins returned the favor Friday evening, donating a silver yod to accompany the Atkin's Torah.
Mike Atkin believed that God had a hand in bringing his family together on Friday.
``My sister lives in Santa Monica and she called to see if she could come out for a Shabbat service for the anniversary. She had no idea. And my daughter, who is 21, doesn't normally go to temple. I told her that her aunt was coming for dinner and we were going to temple before, so she came. That's a testament to me that there is a higher power involved here.''
Atkin said that Blazer unrolled part of the Torah and told Mike that the next time he read the sacred scrolls, they would be his mother's. Admitting to a problem with vowels in Hebrew, Mike was reassured by Blazer's young daughter, who read a few passages from the ancient pages.
``She was actually the first person to read, which is quite an honor,'' Atkin said.
(color) Mike Atkin unrolls a 400- to 500-year-old Torah at the Temple Beth Ami in Newhall. The deerskin Torah was presented to the temple in honor of Atkin's mother.
David Crane/Staff Photographer
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jun 20, 2006|
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