"We are doing more than physically restoring the letters and the parchment," said Lou Lewis, restoration project chairman. "We are seeking to create a spiritual journey for members of our congregation and consciousness raising for our entire community."
On April 18, an opening ceremony will take place at Vassar Temple. During the daylong celebration, some members will be able to ink in a letter on a parchment scroll with Rabbi Moshe Druin of Sofer on Site guiding them.
Throughout the spring and summer, more congregants can make appointments with the scribes to make their marks on one of the scrolls being restored.
David Lampell, a congregant living in the City of Poughkeepsie, said he attended a previous a talk in which one of the scribes described the process of restoration. He said in inking in the letters, he and other members of the congregation would rely on the scribe to guide the quill pen along the parchment.
"They'll be doing the actual writing and we'll be holding onto the quill," Lampell said.
The origin of the temple's five scrolls is uncertain. Eastern Europe is believed to be where they were transcribed. The temple's "Prague Torah" probably was brought to America by one of the five families that founded the congregation in 1848, Golomb said.
The animal-based parchment, possibly goat skin, was made to endure many restorations.
"Because of its thickness, you can scrape off the letters without tearing it," Golomb said.
It takes a professional Sofer almost a year to write on parchment more than a quarter of a million letters. The Sofer is not allowed to write from memory. The Sofer has to look into the text of a Chumash that has been thoroughly checked to be an accurate copy or a Tikkun for each next letter, concentrating himself on the holiness and significance of each of the letters of the Sefer Torah. The Torah can only be written in a special square script called K'tav Ashuri. Although Hebrew is read and written from right to left, the Sofer forms each individual letter starting from left to right, checking each word from the Tikkun, singing each word, each letter, out loud.