patchwork torah

The Patchwork Torah by Allison Ofanansky, illustrated by Elsa Oriol

David’s grandfather was a scribe.   He had been asked by the rabbi to write a new Torah for their synagogue because the old one was fading.  David watched his grandfather work for a year on the new Torah and then store it away, explaining that a Torah is not something to be thrown out.  Years later, as David was learning to be a scribe from his grandfather, a couple came to them bringing a Torah that they had hidden from the Nazis.  It was badly water damaged and his grandfather tucked that Torah away too in the hopes of working on it someday.  David grew up to be a scribe and inherited his grandfather’s cabinet with the two scrolls inside.  One day, the rabbi called and told him that there had been a fire in the synagogue and the Torah was damaged.  That scroll too was put away.  Finally, Katrina hit New Orleans and a Torah was rescued but damaged too.  David suddenly had an idea and worked for months to take the four scrolls and patch them together into one complete Torah that would be unlike any other.

Ofanansky builds this story slowly and steadily.  Each Torah comes into the book with a full story and history.  Each is unique and ruined in some way, but worthy of being rescued and reused.  It is the ultimate in recycling.  The book also pays homage to the long history of scribes who care for and create Torah, showing the dedication that it takes to learn the art and skill. 

The art by Oriol has a quiet nature too.  The paintings are suffused in yellow light and warmth.  Even the days of the tragedies that happen to the people and the Torah are light-filled and hope filled. 

A quiet and powerful story about renewal and reuse, this book speaks across religions to the importance of hard work and resilience.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.