“A Torah has to be perfect,’’ Pfeiffer said. “If even one letter is damaged or missing, it can’t be used.’’
When completed, the Torah will serve worshippers again for the first time since the Holocaust began.
“The Torah contains 613 commandments, and the last is that every single Jewish person should write one,” says Bialo.
Due to lack of time and training, today that’s not possible.
“We write the scroll for them,’’ Bialo said. “They participate by holding the quill with me. We say a blessing, and together we write a letter. We become their right hand.’’
Bialo uses a kosher turkey feather for his quill and ink made of gum, vinegar and honey to add sheen. Although everyone has a personal preference for the Hebrew letter he or she wishes to inscribe, “You write whatever letter needs to be restored next,” says Bialo. “We call it God’s raffle.”
Reiser still wonders today where she got the strength to confront the Nazis when she was 10. She walked across the square where the Nazis had arranged the Jews, and addressed two SS guards surrounded by Doberman Pinschers.
“I don’t remember what I said or what pushed me to do it,” she says. “They told me to take my parents to the barracks and wait.”
The Reisers were spared from the camps.
“From a spoiled brat, I became a very feisty, strong girl,” she said.
After the war, as an 18-year-old, Reiser helped smuggle Jewish refugees from displaced persons camps over the Alps into Italy and onto Palestine. Eventually, she and her husband settled in Israel. She came to the U.S. 13 years ago.
“I could take on the whole world. We saved so many people. But not everyone is like me.”
Bialo has attended more Torah inscriptions than he can remember, including with his late grandfather, a Holocaust survivor.
“Who would think that in 2013, we’re restoring a Torah that was meant for destruction? It’s a dream that was undreamable,” he says. “When you see a person sitting down and holding a feather, it’s a miracle.”