“One generation shall laud Your works to another and declare Your mighty acts.” Psalms 145:4 (The Israel Bible™)
A Torah scroll honoring Jewish US World War II Air Corps veteran Jacob Kamaras is set to sail aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford supercarrier along with 30-40 Jewish sailors. The family of Jacob Kamaras commissioned the lightweight and portable Torah scroll to allow the men and women serving America to have access to Jewish ritual while traveling international waters.
To Jacob Kamaras, the grandson and namesake of the WWII veteran, the Torah scroll will help Jews who serve America feel grounded while they set sail far and wide.
“If Jacob was born into another religion, then we would be honoring him in some different way. But Jacob was born a Jew and he served in the military, and because of his life, work, and service, countless Jews in the military will have access to a Torah and will be connected with their faith,” the younger Kamaras told Breaking Israel News.
Because the war veteran suddenly died of a heart attack when his son was eight years old, the Torah scroll represents for the Kamaras family a shift in his memory from being absent in their lives to having an omnipresent legacy.
According to the younger Kamaras, it was always his father’s idea to commission a Torah scroll in memory of his grandfather, using the JCC Association of North America’s program “Torahs for our Troops” as inspiration.
“We felt as a family that a Torah scroll leaves an enduring legacy. It’s a fixture in Judaism and in Jewish ritual. The scrolls literally and hopefully last forever on parchment,” he told Breaking Israel News.
“You always hear stories about 400-500 year old Torah scrolls from Europe or ones that survived the Holocaust and were maintained, and there’s a certain presence of the Torah scroll in contemporary Jewish history as a permanent fixture in Jewish life that imparts our values,” he said.
“It’s a tremendous legacy for anyone to leave, for a Torah scroll to be commissioned, so it’s an honor.”
The commissioned Torah was written by scribe Zerach Greenfield and is intentionally lightweight so that it can be portable for members of the military who are often sea-bound for 6-8 month periods at a time.
The casing of the Torah scroll is adorned with circular, silver plates surrounding the handles. On the plates are inscriptions of the names of the members of the Kamaras family.
For younger Kamaras, his grandfather, whom he never met, always remained a “tremendous mystery” to him. He recalls the peculiarity of visiting his grandfather’s burial site and seeing his own name written on the headstone.
“It is an out of body experience to see your own name written on a tombstone,” he said. But while the tombstone is associated with death, Jacob Kamaras’ name on the casing of the Torah scroll is associated with something that gives life.
“Suddenly now, the biggest impact of the Torah scroll for me is this is Jacob’s new story. For years to me, he was just someone who was absent, and now he’s really present,” Kamaras told Breaking Israel News.
“That’s Jacob’s new story, and it’s not about the mystery surrounding him, but the story of what his legacy is doing for these troops,” he concluded.