It has been just over a week after the fire and although in many ways we are still reeling from the shock, we also have had a chance to take stock, to see where we are and work towards where we want to be.
As Hayley Rubin told us at our community debriefing last night, a traumatic event such as this can take six months to a year to truly integrate into our consciousness and make peace with, but an important part of the healing process is to tell our stories, to share with others our experience of that terrible night a week ago, and thus to begin to accept that this very shocking and sad event actually did happen.
Of course, this does not spell the end for our community. Not even close. We are blessed with an incredible team in our chairman, trustees, committee members, professional staff and volunteers, and it has been more than impressive to see how much has been achieved, and with such excellence. I will expand on that further, but I will note that as much as it is not the end, it is the end of an era. The Arthur’s Road Shul as we knew it is no more, and we grieve for it. The Sifrei Torah that we read from, held, kissed and danced with will be read no more. But at the same time we must know that we are continuing with strength, committed to the rebuild and committed to running a strong community in our temporary home(s) in the interim.
It is a delicate balancing act, acknowledging the magnitude of our loss and the difficulties we will face, whilst also remaining in a space of hope, positivity and gratitude which is equally authentic. This was best encapsulated for me by a community member who said to me, at the end of last week’s very beautiful Shabbat, “Last Wednesday morning I felt that the world had ended. Now I feel that it has not.”
Indeed it has not, and we have so much going for us. We will be based in Weizmann hall for the next month, and we have teams working on making it beautiful and welcoming. We will have inspiring davening, great children’s service, and supervision of the children playing, a delicious Kiddush bracha, and two special guests! Chief Rabbi Goldstein is joining us for Shabbat, speaking on Friday night and on Shabbat day before Mussaf, and Saul Singer, author of “Start Up Nation”, will address us after the Kiddush Bracha.
I will be making my usual pilgrimage to Bnei Akiva camp next week – instead of a full Sunday-to-Friday, it will be a little shorter, but I will ensure that I am as available as possible for all Morasha members and matters whilst checking in on our younger members who are madrichim and channichim at the camp, as well as giving them all the message that we are continuing with strength.
My two minute video for Sidrat Vayigash is called “Hidden Holiness” and you can find it here.
I also made a little video explaining that we’re at Weizmann for now.
We have no fewer than 10 teams working on all that needs to happen during this transition phase; we have people dealing with insurance and cleanup of the Shul, we have people exploring options for venues for our Shul in the meantime, we have security discussions and catering groups, we have a Sifrei Torah subcommittee and we are working on raising the funds that we will need to sustain us in this time and assist in the rebuilding, beyond the insurance costs. We will be consulting broadly regarding the rebuild itself, but that is still a little way away. In the meantime, the three best ways in which you can help us are:
- Come! Attend! Be with us for Shabbat and during the week. Your support means a great deal to us, and the stronger we are together during the time, the more vibrant and sustainable our long-term vision.
- Volunteer! We can’t use everyone all the time, but if you call Wendy or Susan on the new office number of 079 4697496 and say what it is that you can do, we will make a note and call in your help when necessary.
- Be Patient! We have great people working on all that needs to be done, and nothing (to our knowledge) is being neglected. However the process can, at times, be frustratingly slow. Know that we are doing all that we can and will continue working on behalf of this very special community.
May Hashem bless us all with a beautiful Shabbat together!
Aviva, Shalva, Azriel, Tzuriya and I wish you a Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Sam Thurgood
Message from Evan Robins
A week can be a long time. Massive thanks to the Rabbi, Committee, Trustees and members for continuing to work incredibly hard for our community as we begin to emerge from crisis mode.
A quick update:
· Cause of fire: Foul play has been ruled out. The professionals have indicated to us that the overwhelming likelihood is that the fire was caused by an electrical fault in the roof.
· Site clear-up: Asbestos was found in the roof. Immediate and urgent steps were taken to ensure that no harm followed. Items from the Shul have been taken off-site for cleaning, and the asbestos experts have been extremely clear that, due to the steps that have been taken, no one is at any risk from the asbestos, provided that they do not enter the Shul grounds unauthorised. This cleanup should be completed by the first week of January.
· Next steps on the site: Once the site has been made safe, structurally damaged areas will be demolished and examined. After this, insurance will finalise an estimate of the extent of the damage and our level of insurance. We should know where we stand during the first quarter of next year.
· Or new temporary home: Over the Holiday period and until further notice the Weizmann Hall will be our base (thank you Herzlia). We are exploring options for the way forward, including the option to remain at Weizmann.
· Visitors: Morasha’s warmth, welcoming and hospitality continues. Please welcome and invite visitors and holiday makers to join our services.
· Fund raising: We require funds to get us through this period and for the rebuild. Please continue to support our refreshed Charidy campaign. The local, national and global support we have received has been nothing short of remarkable and is hugely appreciated.
Updated Charidy Communication
#MorashaChai Community Torah Project
We are rebuilding our community through the writing of a Sefer Torah – and we want you to be a part of it!
On Wednesday 5 December, the morning after the fire, as we prayed in the courtyard of our destroyed Shul and bereft of our Sifrei Torah, we initiated and commissioned the writing of a new Sefer Torah. No Shul should have to be without a Sefer Torah for even one minute.
On Monday 10 December we began the writing of the Torah at a moving and magnificent ceremony where hundreds of Jewish children from across Cape Town came together to buy a letter in the Torah that will be the MorashaChai Community Torah.
Every letter in the MorashaChai Community Torah will be written by means of a donation to our emergency fund, and so for every R18 that you donate, you will have sponsored a letter in the Torah. This is your opportunity to have a share in a Torah that will be read, celebrated, and raised as a symbol of Jewish resilience and the Jewish future for years to come.
There are 304 805 letters in the Sefer Torah, and at R18 a letter, this maps almost exactly to our fundraising goal of R5 500 000.
It is well documented that communities that survive crises, such as the one that the Morasha community is currently enduring, are those that have economic sufficiency. This emergency campaign is therefore absolutely essential to ensuring the continuity and ongoing success of Morasha which plays such a distinct, critical and high impact role in the broader Cape Town Jewish community [see “About Us” below].
The funds raised will be used as follows:
- R 750 000 towards the purchasing of the MorashaChai Community Torah including adornments;
- R 1 250 000 towards extraordinary costs incurred, including costs of temporarily relocating and sustaining our community through this crisis and to ensure community continuity through our period of dislocation;
- R 3 500 000 to seed our rebuilding fund to cover rebuild costs which invariably exceed available insurances and costs associated with the planning and management of the rebuild.All donations already received, including those made privately by EFT outside of the Charidy website will be retroactively included in this project as having contributed to the writing of the MorashaChai Community Torah.
Every participant in this campaign will receive a certificate of acknowledgment stating how many letters in the MorashaChai Community Torah they contributed towards writing and how, in so doing, they also contributed to the sustenance and rebuilding of Morasha.
Larger contributors will also be honoured in the following ways:
Category Rand Amount* Torah Adornment Crowns of Torah PoA Inscription on the crown and mantle to adorn the Torah Shields of Torah 180 000 Inscription on the breastplate and mantle to adorn the Torah Pillars of Torah 100 000 Inscription on the Eitz Chayim of the Torah and mantle to adorn the Torah Strongholds of Torah 54 000 Inscription on the Yad to adorn the Torah and to be used for reading the Torah Patrons of Torah 18 000 Allocated a Parsha on the Acknowledgement Board in the rebuilt Shul** Protectors of Torah 5 400 Acknowledgement Board in the rebuilt Shul Friends of Torah 1 800 Acknowledgement Board in the rebuilt Shul
* Amount actually pledged (i.e. excluding the 1:1 amount matched by our matchers)
** For a variety of reasons it is not possible for patrons to specify their allocated Parsha. We will allocate these at our discretion. Within reason and without any obligation on our part we will do what we can after the campaign has ended to accommodate special requests on a fair and equitable basis.
Sponsor letters for yourself, members of your family, friends, and everyone whom you want to have a share in this special Mitzva. By doing this, you will not only be an integral part of a beloved Torah, but will give life and hope to a wonderful community who have lost our spiritual home.
Question: Why did you change the timeline and nature of your campaign?
Answer: We launched our initial campaign in under 24 hours, knowing very little other than that our need was desperate and critically important. We set a goal together with (in hindsight) an overly ambitious and very limited time frame of a single week. In that week it has become clear that we are the recipients of incredible generosity that continues unabated, but also that there is substantial interest in the MorashaChai Community Sefer Torah Project. We therefore decided to extend our timeframe and combine our Emergency Charidy campaign with the MorashaChai Community Sefer Torah Project into a single focused campaign so as to afford everyone the opportunity to participate.
About Us: We are a warm and beautiful community in Sea Point, in one of Hashem’s most beautiful cities. An eclectic mix of people – young and old, rich and poor, learned and beginners – but all united in our love of Hashem, Torah, Israel, the Jewish people – and the world. You are guaranteed a warm welcome and a unique experience of connection from the moment you enter our doors. We are quirky, unique, honest and fun, and provide a spiritual homes for hundreds in Cape Town, and hundreds more who visit from around the world. Our strong partnerships with Bnei Akiva and Mizrachi reflect our positions as the standard bearers of religious-zionist modern orthodoxy in Cape Town. Whether you are looking for a fascinating shiur, inspiring davening, fun children’s service, a delicious kiddush bracha, or the beauty of tradition – you will find it at Morasha.