It was a sight Mar Vista doesn’t see every day
Members of Ohr HaTorah synagogue, which until this month held services at a church in West Los Angeles, donned sun hats and sneakers Aug. 8 to carry their Torahs south to the congregation’s new location
The walk was only 2.8 miles, but the journey was 15 years in the making.
"We finally have a place that feels like home," said Meirav Finley, who co-founded Ohr HaTorah with her husband, Rabbi Mordecai Finley. "We’ve been shlepping for 15 years, getting up at 5 a.m. and loading the prayer books. It’s time to focus our energy on other things."
The Finleys closed escrow on the new site Aug. 1, and renovation began within two days to ready the building for its first Friday night service less than a week later. On that Shabbat, the interior was still far from finished, but the bare walls and scant furnishings only amplified congregants’ joyous voices as they sang and danced around the Torah scrolls in the sanctuary.
Rabbi Finley said the decision to carry the Torahs on foot to the new facility wasn’t based on halachah (Jewish law). Instead, he said, it offered a symbolic parallel of the path the congregation had taken to reach a place of its own.
"It’s about the celebratory aspect," Finley said. "In a way, it symbolizes the journey of Ohr HaTorah. It’s also a way to honor the sifrei Torah, rather than just loading them into a car."
Finley said the move will let the synagogue expand spiritually focused classes and programs for its 300 member families.
"I think our infrastructure is ready to grow," he said. "We can certainly accommodate a greater number of people at services now."