During Barack Obama’s first few days as president, Jews from all over the world will send him their collective prayers and good wishes, rolled elegantly together in a Torah-size parchment “Scroll of Blessings.”
The ongoing projects, called “Blessings for Barack” and “A Prayer for Our Country” call upon American Jews to come together to present a community-wide gift to Obama, a ritual performed for nearly every American president, according to the project’s coordinator, Shlomo Perelman of Judaism.com. Logging on to BlessingsforBarack.com, visitors have the option of composing a prayer for the United States or creating a personal blessing for Obama, in 324 characters or less. Submissions are welcome until Jan. 23 at noon, when the contents of the scroll will head to the presses.
As his inspiration, Perelman recalled the moment in history when a Jewish Chicagoan gave President Abraham Lincoln an American flag embroidered with words from the book of Joshua, which had a tremendous effect on the president, he said.
“It’s said that Lincoln is his role model, so giving him a gift with prayers and blessings of the Torah is very appropriate,” Perelman said, also stressing the importance of the prayers for our country repeated in synagogue every Shabbat morning.
While the Jewish community has never yet given a president such a Scroll of Blessings, Perelman wishes that he had thought of the idea sooner.
“If I had thought about it eight years ago I probably would’ve done it then, and if I was old enough for Kennedy I would’ve done it then too,” he said.
Perelman said he first came up with the idea after the tragedy in Mumbai, when he set up an e-mail condolence application on Judaism.com and then delivered the e-mail printouts to the Holtzberg family in Israel.
“When you look at e-mails printed out, it’s a very different experience from looking at e-mails in an inbox,” Perelman said, adding that he received 500 messages in only the first 18 hours of that campaign.
“That’s what gave me the idea. Every community, every interest group is sending e-mails to Obama,” he said. “Rather than send e-mails, we could print out the messages and put them on a uniquely Jewish medium.”
The Web-based team has already received over 1,000 responses, according to Perelman, and they hope to collect many more particularly on inauguration Tuesday from students at Jewish day schools. Once amassed and sorted, printers will arrange the blessings on canvas and weave them over a wooden scroll to resemble a traditional Torah, Perelman explained. In the scroll’s dedication page, all Jewish congressmen and senators will sign a formal Hebrew prayer, in an effort arranged by Rep. Bob Filner, (D-Calif.).
“The rest of it will be all these blessings and prayers printed out in a beautiful script and the entire scroll will be given to him,” Perelman said. “We want it to be something that he can actually read.”