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A Torah rescued from Lithuania has a home on the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman.
The carrier is one of the few Navy vessels to have its own Torah. Few ships are large enough to need one, said Sam Werbel, an organizer of a dedication ceremony Sunday attended by 500 community members and dignitaries. The audience included Holocaust survivors.
"This is not a ceremony alone," said Mark E. Talisman, founder and president of the Project Judaica Foundation. "It's about humanity or a lack thereof. It's about all of us understanding the dignity of human life."
Several Jewish service members celebrated the event, taking photos with the heavy 26-inch high scroll bearing the words of the Old Testament.
About 5 percent or less of Lithuania's Jewish population survived the Holocaust. No religious artifacts, other than this Torah, are thought to remain of that country's Jewish population, organizers said.
"I'm very proud of our servicemen who are serving, and I'm very proud that they saw fit to have a Torah on board the ship," said Julius Marcus of Portsmouth, who attended with his wife, Jeanne.
On May 14, 1948, 11 minutes after the nation of Israel was created, President Truman recognized it diplomatically. Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann, thanked Truman with a Torah that now belongs to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library.
That Torah was on loan to the carrier and displayed next to the Torah that was dedicated Sunday.
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, attended Sunday's dedication. He said Truman's namesake carrier was a fitting home for a Torah that would help service members "grow in their appreciation of our Jewish faith."
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