A piece of New Orleans and Jewish history now rests permanently at a two-story corner home along Gravel Hill Road.
The home belongs to Rabbi Eliezer and Chanie Zaklikovsky, directors of the Chabad Jewish Center in Monroe. And the piece of history, a white Torah with golden script, traveled a long way from New Orleans to their doorstep.
Chabad members Freida and Leonard Posnock brought the Torah from Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, days before Hurricane Katrina destroyed the historic synagogue. The synagogue’s remaining Torahs were buried in hardened mud and ruined.
“We saved a Torah,” Freida Posnock, who attended the Congregation Beth Israel as a girl, said while tears welled in her eyes.
A crowd of more than 100 gathered yesterday afternoon to dedicate the new Torah and the Chabad, located at the Zaklikovsky’s home. The outside ceremony also celebrated the Jewish holiday Sukkot with a barbecue, pony rides and arts and crafts.
“The Torah is our inheritance, and through that Jews are able to feel connected,” Rabbi Zaklikovsky said. “It’s good to see the traditions come alive and see the outpouring of support today from the community.”
Smoke from the grill wafted as children made edible sukkahs from sugar wafers and marshmallow. Standing at the podium, Rabbi Zaklikovsky shared the meaning of the Sukkot celebration and the Torah and Chabad dedication.
“Jewish unity,” he said, pausing. “Coming together to celebrate who we are as a people. Chabad is here to bring people together beyond our differences. Sukkot celebrates unity.”
After placing a handmade silver crown on top of the Torah, Rabbi Zaklikovsky hoisted it and carried it through the crowd. People kissed the Torah and gently ran their fingers across it before Zaklikovsky placed it in the home.
“This is Jewish unity and Jewish pride at its best,” said Zaklikovsky, adding he previously borrowed a Torah from a Brooklyn rabbi. “The spirit of brotherly love — it means so much.”
Freida Posnock agreed.
“It’s a beautiful day, and (the Zaklikovskys) are rejuvenating a lot of people in this community,” she said. “Judaism is a tradition that needs to be carried on.”
The Chabad was previously located at a nearby Gravel Hill Road home, which the Zaklikovskys rented before moving to their new house in November.
The Zaklikovskys are now raising money for a $200,000 construction project that will add another 1,800 square feet onto the home.
“We have been blessed since the moment we moved to Monroe,” Rabbi Zaklikovsky said. “This is a very exciting place, and as we grow and make friends, it will only get better.”
For more information about the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe, visit the center at 261 Gravel Hill Road or call (732) 656-1616.