Leisah Woldoff

A gift through the generations

Avi Dahan, left, and Nisim Dadon, two founders of the Scottsdale Sepharadic Synagogue, hold a Torah that was originally dedicated by Dahan’s grandmother at a Jerusalem synagogue.

In a Jerusalem synagogue more than 30 years ago, a woman dedicated a Torah scroll in honor of her late husband.

Last month, this same scroll was brought to Phoenix, where it will become part of a new synagogue co-founded by the man’s grandson.

When Avi Dahan of Phoenix was helping form the Scottsdale Sepharadic Synagogue, he remembered hearing that his grandmother, Massouda Dahan, had at one time dedicated a Torah scroll to a Jerusalem synagogue. Dahan asked his sister Shoshana Benyamin, who lives in Jerusalem, to investigate.

She visited Heychal Abraham in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bakaa, where her grandmother used to live, and Rabbi Shimon Ben-Ita directed her to a Torah with the Hebrew inscription: “Massouda Dahan, Lech Lecha;” evidence that the Torah was dedicated by her grandmother during the week of the “Lech Lecha” Torah portion.

The ark contained several Torah scrolls and this particular Torah has been used consistently throughout the years, Ben-Ita told Benyamin.

Avi Dahan translates the Hebrew inscription on the inside right side of the case: “This binder, this Sefer Torah and the pomegranates were dedicated by Lady Massouda Dahan in memory of Abraham Dahan, her husband. He passed away on the 27th of Adar II, 5679” (March 29, 1919).

Inside, on the left side of the case, is an inscription that said she dedicated the Torah “in the hand of her son Maklouf Dahan to walk it anyplace that he so desires without any delay and may he live to have a long life,” translates Dahan. It’s dated Cheshvan 5728 (1967).

Dahan explains that this means that although his grandmother dedicated the Torah at this synagogue, it was under the condition that her son could take it if he so desired. Since it was donat-ed with this condition, Benyamin was able to remove the Torah from the synagogue.

“The rabbi had to release it because (what) was written on it,” Dahan notes. “Nothing was planned. … All my sister wanted was to see the scroll.”

At the same time Benyamin made this discovery, Nisim Dadon, one of the co-founders of the Scottsdale Sepharadic Synagogue, happened to be in Israel for a family wedding. It was arrang- ed that Dadon would transport the Torah back to Arizona with him.

When the To-rah arrived on Aug. 17, it was the first time Dahan had ever seen it. “I shi-vered when I saw it,” he said.

The Torah made its Ameri-can debut dur-ing an Aug. 23 Shabbat service at the Best Western where the synagogue was meeting at the time.

Since then, it has moved to its new location at 5310 E. Shea Blvd., Suite 5. A Torah dedication ceremony to welcome the new Torah – as well as one donated by the Doledano and Amiel families of Montreal – will be held this Sunday, Sept. 14.

Avi and his wife Maggie moved from Israel to Toronto with their two sons, Elan and Drory, in 1969 and moved to Phoenix in 1977.

After the Torah arrived in Phoenix, Dahan realized that his grandmother’s gift continues into another generation: her great-grandson Elan is getting married this year in November: during the week of the Torah portion “Lech Lecha.”

This article first appeared in the Sept. 12, 2003 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.