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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The US Army wants a Torah

Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic discovered a very interesting procurement item at a government contracting site:

The Army wants a Torah scroll.

And, in what appears to be somewhat against a fair RFP process, the Torah scroll it wants is so detailed that it can only be written by a specific scribe.

Here's the Statement of Work:
SOW Torah scroll and Container

1) The parchment should be 56cm tall made from a kosher animal processed by Bock, Kosher Parchment Manufacturer.
2) The height of parchment must be 56cm tall.
3) The actually Torah must be written by the Sephardic Sofer Rabbi G. Raviv, certified as a sofer and examiner by Machon Mishmeret STaM.  The Torah must be written in Sephardic block script written with Nahari ink following the Sephardic tradition and rulings of the Rambam and Rav Ovadia Yosef.  The script should be identical to the attached photograph and newly written. (See Photograph)
4) The finished Torah must be checked manually by the certified examiner Rabbi G. Davis who has studied under the master examiner Rabbi Akiva Garber, certified by the Belz Rabbinical Court.
5) After manually checking the parchment and the writing, the completed parchment must be Computer checked 2 times for textual errors by Machon Beit Yosef.
6) After the parchment is written it should be sown by Rabbi M. Hirshman IAW the laws of Sefer Torah by the Rambam and other Sephardic Poskim.
7) The Torah, upon completion and inspection, should be placed in a wood case of the Sephardic tradition.  The outside of the case, inlayed with the Star of David and appropriate for a 56cm scroll and be made IAW the appropriate Sephardic Jewish laws.  There should be a place on the case to affix a latch to close the case. The case should be constructed by the carpenter Y. Orian and be of the appearance of the attached photograph. (See Photograph)
8) The Torah and container should completed and received by Fort Benning NLT 20 Jan 2011.  Anytime early would be acceptable.


The government need not worry about getting the Torah in time for January. While it usually takes a year to write a Torah, it appears that the one they have in mind has already been written until at least Numbers 7:77 -

- which means it is at least 60% done.

And the case is not too ostentatious:



Now for the research.

The Torah is to be shipped to Fort Benning, GA.

Last year, the  ADL wrote an article concerning an incident that occurred in Fort Benning:

After a series of consultations with the Anti-Defamation League over the mistreatment of a Jewish trainee at Fort Benning last fall, The United States Army has now taken steps to improve support services for Jewish trainees on the base.

The Army has assigned a fulltime Jewish chaplain to Fort Benning, begun a Friday night worship service on base for Jewish families, started offering Kosher meals for incoming trainees, and is making plans for on base High Holiday services.

The changes come in the aftermath of an incident last October, when Michael Handman, a Jewish trainee, reported that he had been subjected to verbal harassment by two drill instructors who demanded he remove his yarmulke in the dining hall. In a separate incident, Handman was assaulted by another trainee.

As a result of Handman's complaints, the ADL entered into a series of conversations with Army officials and successfully persuaded them to move Handman to a safe location on the base and to take action against the men who had targeted him for abusive treatment.

The trainee who hit Handman was dismissed from the Army and the two drill sergeants were disciplined and forced to take a religious diversity training course.

At the time of the incidents, the base did not have a fulltime Jewish chaplain. They announced recently that Major Carlos Huerta will become Ft. Benning's on-base rabbi.

Until now, Jewish trainees and other personnel have had to arrange passes and transportation to go off base to attend Jewish services in Columbus, Georgia. Now, weekly and High Holiday services will be offered on the base. In addition, the Army has never before offered Kosher meals at Ft. Benning.
The author of the SOW, according to Microsoft Word properties? Carlos C. Huerta!

Now it makes sense - Fort Benning is going to have weekly synagogue services, and it needs a Torah in order to do it right.

(h/t DeJerusalem for the initial Atlantic link)