Solel’s Living Torah & Sacred Spaces Project

Our Solel Family

We have much to be thankful for at Solel. We have built a strong, faith-based community a “kehillah.” In 2023 we began to celebrate our next milestone: the 50th anniversary of Solel. Through the generous donation of Gerry and Nancy Willis z”l, we’ve been fortunate to be able to initiate the writing of a new Torah scroll. Among the many exciting events to take place during our 50th anniversary year has been honouring them through the dedication of a new Sefer Torah.

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As a gift to all generations, we started our Living Torah Project that culminated with the dedication of a new Torah. Our goal has been to have every Solel member participate in the project so that we can match the generosity of Gerry and Nancy to complete our new Torah and beautify our sacred space.

L’dor V’Dor – From Generation to Generation, the Torah has been the legacy for the Jewish people. It guides our lives and unifies our voices. We raise it and read from it. Debate it and embrace it. Live by it and die for it. And now we have had the privilege to write it.

Write for yourselves this song and teach it to all the Children of Israel.
– Deuteronomy 31:19

Scholars have interpreted this to mean that if you write even one letter of a Sefer Torah, it is as if you have written the Torah in its entirety. This is especially significant for our education program, as our members, bar, bat and b’nei mitzvah students and adults, serve as Torah readers on Shabbat and Holidays.

Now that our new Torah scroll is complete and has been dedicated in a moving ceremony at Solel on 16 June, 2024, our focus has turned to beautifying our sacred space so that everyone who worships at Solel can have their experience enriched by being in pleasing, fully accessible surroundings.

A Legacy Continued

Gerry and Nancy Willis z”l have been beloved members of Solel since its early days. With Nancy always at his side, Gerry’s love of learning, of Torah, and the Jewish People permeates every area of Solel life. One of Gerry’s proudest moments was to chant Torah on Shabbat morning and then lead the discussion. Like Joseph, his favourite biblical character, Gerry was very colourful. He has entertained us with an array of stories, playfully taking on the voice of each character. He and Nancy loved Solel as much as we loved them.

Gerry & Nancy Willis

From Our Rabbi – Audrey S. Pollack

Rabbi Audrey Pollack

Torah is the heart and soul of the Jewish community. The Torah encompasses our history, our beliefs, our traditions, our culture, reminds us of our past and is a guide for our future. The Torah is the essence of Judaism, it is the centre of who we are, what we stand for, what is expected of us, and how to live a life of holiness in partnership with God and community. As complex as life is, the teachings of Torah continue to provide strength, encouragement, and inspiration. The Torah we have written belongs to all of us, on so many levels. As we have celebrated the 50th anniversary of Solel, every member of our congregation was invited to fulfill the 613th mitzvah, the very final commandment of the Torah by writing an actual letter in our new Torah. As writers of Torah, each of us have had the honour and privilege to fulfill this mitzvah to hand down the legacy of Torah to our children and to future generations of Solel.

The Scribing Experience

The scribing experience is powerful and meaningful. Solel members had the opportunity to hold the quill together with our scribe. Under her guidance, and as a group they filled in the letter. The magic of that moment, combining spirituality with the simple task of filling in a letter, is stirring and compelling. It resonates with all ages, across the generations.

To write a Torah is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to express one’s commitment to Jewish traditions and hopes for the future. Donors had a unique opportunity to make contributions to dedicate books, sections, paragraphs, sentences, words, and individual letters of the Torah scroll in their name or the names of loved ones.
The Solel Living Torah Project will keep Torah learning alive and relevant for every Jewish child and adult.

Our Soferet, Rabbi Yonah Lavery-Yisraeli

The task to meticulously handwrite our new Torah scroll is entrusted to our skillful soferet (scribe), Rabbi Yonah Lavery-Yisraeli.

Rabbi Lavery-Yisraeli is one of only a handful of women around the world who work as a soferet*, who painstakingly produce the ritual documents of Jewish life – mezuzah inserts, marriage contracts (ketubbot), and even Torah scrolls (*soferet is the feminine version of sofer). She is also one of an even smaller group of women who have written an entire Torah scroll, all 304,805 letters done entirely by hand on parchment made from the skin of a kosher animal.

Rabbi Yonah Lavery-Ysraeli

Learn more about her story

Each of Us is a Letter in the Torah

The Torah is made up of each of us. Torah unfolds in us as we connect to holiness: the endless ways we see wonder, express gratitude, and bless the life around us. And, we can fold ourselves into the Torah.

Torah scrolls in the Ark

This Project is filled with experiences of Torah—from the writing of a complete scroll of Torah to study and conversation about the complex legacy of sacred scripture. “With all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.” These Torah words are part of the Sh’ma that we recite daily. We bring all of it—our hearts, our talents, our hands, our minds, our music, and our arts, as we venture together in the creation and celebration of the unfolding of Torah in our lives.