JERUSALEM MAYOR Nir Barkat holds a Torah that was donated in honor of Shira in a ceremony at the capital’s City Hall yesterday..
(photo credit: JEKI LEVI)
A 150-year-old Torah dedicated by a prominent Canadian AIDS researcher in memory of Shira Banki, 16, who was stabbed to death last July during Jerusalem’s annual Gay Pride Parade, has been donated to a municipality-founded Ethiopian synagogue in the capital.
The scroll, donated by Prof. Mark Wainberg, an internationally recognized expert in the field of HIV research at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital and McGill University of Montreal, was presented to the synagogue by Mayor Nir Barkat during a ceremony on Monday.
“After Prof. Wainberg heard about Banki’s tragic death, he decided to honor her memory by donating a Torah to a community in Jerusalem,” the municipality said in a statement.
Wainberg, who completed his post-doctoral research at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, is director of McGill’s AIDS Center at Montreal Jewish General Hospital, where he also teaches medicine and microbiology.
According to the municipality, the Torah was written in Baghdad and has been fully restored.
“The Jerusalem Municipality connected Prof. Wainberg with members of the Ethiopian community in the Katamonim neighborhood of Jerusalem, whose synagogue will house the Torah scroll,” the statement said.
Wainberg told The Jerusalem Post that Banki’s death was “so tragic, so terrible... I thought it would be very nice if the family would agree for us to donate a sefer Torah for their daughter who died so needlessly.”
He noted that Banki’s parents wanted to donate it to the Ethiopian synagogue. “They said yes,” he added. “I’m grateful they did.”
The ceremony, held in Barkat’s City Hall office, was attended by Banki’s parents, Mika and Uri; her uncle, Uri Neuman; Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman; Montreal Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz; and Rabbi Shahar Aylin, who serves the Ethiopian congregation.
During the dedication, Barkat called the event “both sad and moving.” He said, “We remember Shira and the tragedy of her death, and at the same time we are creating hope and renewal among the Ethiopian community in Jerusalem.”
The mayor continued: “I would like to thank Prof. Wainberg for his meaningful donation and wish the Banki family, and all of us, many moments of happiness, joy, hope and light in Jerusalem.”