The Torah by The Jewish Museum published on 2019-07-17T19:13:37Z LUCETTE LAGNADO: People don’t realize this, but in Iraq, where this Torah scroll came from, there were hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of Jews once upon a time. And other countries, Algeria, Syria, you name it. There were Jews, and that means there were synagogues and there were Torah scrolls and there were specific traditions associated with these communities. And yet what united us all was our love, above all, for the Torah. SUSAN BRAUNSTEIN: That was Lucette Lagnado, a best-selling author who has written eloquently about her Jewish identity. “Torah” means teaching in Hebrew. It refers to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, or to the handwritten scroll that contains this text. The beautiful Torah case you’re looking at was probably made in Iraq in the late 19th century. But it was used at a synagogue in Kolkata, India, which was home to a Jewish community with Iraqi origins. LUCETTE LAGNADO: I was born in Cairo, Egypt, to an Egyptian Jewish family. We had to leave Egypt when I was a little girl and we came to America in the 1960s. And I grew up in Brooklyn in a small enclave where a lot of other Egyptian and Syrian Jewish refugees settled. SUSAN BRAUNSTEIN: Every Saturday, Lucette attended services at a synagogue in Bensonhurst. As in most Orthodox synagogues, the women and girls were seated separately from the men and boys. And the men played a more active role in worship. LUCETTE LAGNADO: The culmination of every service was the Torah scrolls being brought out. I've never quite forgotten the longing, the kind of the mixed feelings of jealousy, envy, and love I felt toward the men who had the privilege of carrying those Torah scrolls. It's actually a very profound belief of observant Jews that the Torah scroll is alive. And the proof of that is if—God forbid—it ever becomes damaged you're not allowed [to] throw it out; you have to bury it. You have to treat it as we treat the dead in Judaism. And that's yet another element of why I feel so passionately about what a museum would call an object. And I want to cry out: No, it's not an object; it’s alive. It's a part of God.