Neighborhood used to be a Jewish mecca, but population declined after the Depression. Chabad of Harlem will usher in new tubular tract on Sunday.
It’s Torah time at the Apollo.
The Jewish community of Harlem will welcome its newest member this weekend — the first sacred, handwritten Hebrew scriptures to grace a synagogue in the neighborhood in nearly a century.
“The Harlem Jewish community is growing,” said Rabbi Yossel Gansbourg, head of Chabad of Harlem on Manhattan Ave., who will unveil the 128-foot calfskin parchment Sunday and parade it through the neighborhood.
“With time, the Jewish community will develop very nicely. We always want more people to become part of it.”
Harlem was a Jewish mecca before the Great Depression — home to about 175,000 Members of the Tribe, said Jeffrey Gurock, a history professor at Yeshiva University and author of “When Harlem Was Jewish.”
“There were about 200 synagogues. They were big and small,” Gurock said. “Having a Torah is a sign for permanence for a community. This is the first synagogue to return to central Harlem.”
As it grew, Gansbourg hired Brooklyn Rabbi Yehuda Clapman to write out each of the 304,805 Hebrew letters that make up the tubular tract.
It took him two years — working with a simple goose feather quill and a pot of black ink — to get the job done.
“Each letter, as you write it, is like the birth of something new. You never get bored,” said Clapman.
Shaya Gansbourg didn’t live to see the completion of the $40,000 sacred work, dying in February of a heart attack at age 57.
But his work lives on; now, 130 families come to the synagogue.
“He wanted to make a difference,” his son said.
Gansbourg expects his Torah parade — an event the faithful call Hachnasat Sefer Torah — will draw a mixed crowd in the increasingly diverse Harlem.
After all, the arrival of the Torah is not the first renaissance for the language of Judaism in the neighborhood. Last month, the bilingual Harlem Hebrew Language Academy opened with 137 kids.
Torah celebration, Chabad of Harlem, 437 Manhattan Ave. near W. 118th St., Oct. 27, 9:30 a.m.