Dancing in the Street: Simchat Torah under the stars with the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation
Simchat Torah is a celebratory and joyous Jewish holiday that marks the completion of the annual Torah reading cycle which literally means “Rejoicing in the Law” in Hebrew.
Simchat Torah’s Meaning and Traditions. We first remove The Torah scrolls from the ark and give them to members of the congregation to hold and march around the synagogue with. Everyone kisses the Torah scrolls as they pass. This ceremony is known as hakafot, which means “to march around” in Hebrew. Before the Torah holders return to the Ark everyone forms a circle around them, sings and dances with them. There are seven hakafot in total. As soon as the first dance is completed the scrolls are handed to other members of the congregation and the ritual begins anew.
Then the the fun starts in one of the best known places to celebrate Simchat Torah in New York – the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation (MSC). Located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, hundreds of congregants from all over city – Chabad, Park East Synagogue and many more – came to experience the celebration. They danced, they mingled and enjoyed the delicious Moroccan food served in the synagogue and on the street which was closed from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. The Manhattan Sephardic Congregation started this tradition of outdoor dancing on East 75th in the 1990’s. It was originally intended to be a celebration for MSC congregants, but the event quickly developed into the Simchat Torah “of the Upper East Side” with Jews from all affiliations and denominations stopping by to sing, dance, eat and meet other people.
This is a must stop for every congregant in the city and must be part of your Simchat Torah “circuit.” So make it part of your tour next year – you will enjoy the experience…
New York Jewish Guide.