There were more than a few misty eyes among those gathered to escort the newly acquired Torah into The Summit on First Hill.
On a recent balmy spring evening, a group of Summit residents — along with other interested Jewish community members — assembled on the sidewalk outside, dancing and clapping as students from Northwest Yeshiva High School hoisted the Torah aloft and carried it under a chupah into the building, where other residents were waiting to greet them.
Led by Rabbi Kenneth Zisook, a teacher at the high school, the group danced and sang the Torah into the activities room next to the chapel. Gary Goldwater, a teacher at Seattle Hebrew Academy, played an accordion while the group continued dancing and clapping.
Rabbi Zisook was introduced to the guests by Josh Gortler, Chief Executive Officer of The Summit, who said the rabbi had been a chaplain during the Korean War. Rabbi Zisook will be conducting services at The Summit for Friday evening and Sabbath services. Barry Aaronson, a local architect, was hailed for his work in designing the ark and bimah, along with the synagogue itself, as his contribution to The Summit.
Jack Butnick then recounted the illustrious history of the Torah itself. In 1899, his grandfather Robert Bloom had gone up to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1903, Bloom moved to Fairbanks, but he had no Sefer Torah or services. In 1938, he purchased a Torah, and when Jewish GIs began to arrive in 1940, he was able to have regular religious services with them. The U.S. Army subsequently sent an official Jewish chaplain there, who then began to conduct services for the Jewish armed forces, which Bloom also attended.
In 1950 Robert Bloom and his wife, Jessie, bought a house in West Seattle. According to Jack Butnick, within 10 years there were a number of Orthodox Jews living in the area, and Jack’s grandfather allowed his Torah to be used by them for religious services, conducted by Rabbi Phillip Katsman. The Jewish community there has declined over the years and since 1994 there have been no services. The Bloom family agreed that giving it to The Summit on indefinite loan would be fitting.