April 2017 -- Nisan-Iyar 5777,  Volume 23, Issue 4

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New Unity Torah Brings Community Together Before Passover

By Stephen E. Lipken


A joyous procession of the Unity Torah, written in response to global anti-Semitism, took place from Dobbs Ferry High School to Chabad of Rivertowns House, 303 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry on Sunday, March 26, following a “Maccabeats” concert, attended by approximately 500  community members.


The Torah was conceived in agony, following the settlement of a law suit  brought in the Southern District of New York, instigated by Jean-Marc Orlando, 47,  in 2014-2015 against his former employer, BNP Paribas North America, alleging that he was “discriminated against on the basis of his religion, subjugated to a hostile work environment and retaliated against for making complaints…” when forced to watch a scathing “training” video in Amsterdam, portraying Adolf Hitler as CEO of a BNPP competitor bank with Nazi soldiers as competitor bank executives. When he objected, Jean-Marc was threatened with his job.


Orlando’s Tunisian grandmother was abducted by the Nazis, narrowly escaping deportation. He donated a portion of his settlement to commission a Safer Torah for Chabad. Orlando’s family was given the honor of writing the last letter on the Unity Torah with Sopher, {scribe} Rabbi Yochanan Klein.


“Jews were not allowed in this region of Westchester and now we are going to celebrate in the streets of Dobbs Ferry,” Orlando averred.  “The Police have blocked the street.  We are about to march with a chuppah (Torah/Marriage Canopy)….All this is based on a concept of unity, that there should be no more anti-Semitism here in America and anywhere in the world.”


Co-Chair of the House of Representatives Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, Congresswoman Nita Lowey stated, “I am alarmed as you are to see hate everywhere, to see people killing each other….  As a Jewish woman and Member of Congress I just want to assure you that I will continue to act and represented by this Unity Torah, we will overcome, endure and teach the lessons of Torah…”


“Regarding Passover, it is a time that is widely celebrated by the Jewish community,” Chabad of Rivertowns Rabbi Benjy Silverman noted.  “One of the beautiful aspects of Passover is the fact that it brings families together.  Many families celebrate the Seder together and that is one of the traditions I believe that has kept the Passover tradition so strong.


“That is really what our Unity Torah is all about.  It is a Torah that is being written due to someone’s individual personal story as a Jew, presenting it to the whole community, inviting everyone to participate by dedicating letters or words of this Torah so that it is truly a community Torah…to bring the entire community together, very much in line with the theme of Passover…,” Silverman stressed.