Imagine, Inna said ─

the Torah in the streets, in the open! 

Project Kesher's torah return project

Seventy years ago, Torah was exiled from Eastern Europe.  At first, the Torahs went underground; Jews passed them from house to house and met in basements to read the Torah.  Then, faced with Siberia or death, they smuggled the scrolls out of the country.  The practice of Judaism sputtered out in the region.

With the renewal of Jewish life in the region, there has been a shortage of Torah Scrolls. In June 2004, Project Kesher brought 6 Torahs from the United States and put them in the hands of six of their leaders, who brought them home to their communities.  In most cases, there had been not a single Torah in those communities.  Project Kesher has since sent 19 Torah Scrolls to the region.  Wherever they have gone, Jews have come forward to study, to become bar/bat mitzvah, and to celebrate together.

Learn more about the Torahs in these communities

They have also served as a locus of Torah-centered activism.  Project Kesher women study the text, and then ask themselves how they can turn the teachings into action in their own communities. They have been inspired to create nationwide programs against domestic violence and human trafficking.  Forming coalitions with women of other nationalities in their towns, they are spearheading multinational initiatives for tolerance. They cannot imagine learning without deeds, so through them, Torah is transforming civil society.           

In 2004, Inna Montornaya brought one of the Torahs Scolls home to Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad).  It was late night when she got off the train with the Torah.  Three hundred people, young and old, were waiting outside to meet her.  Some of the oldest remembered back to when the Torahs had to be relinquished to the authorities.  The old people wept, now, to see a Torah again.

"Imagine,” Inna said, “the Torah in the streets, in the open!  People felt free.  When they could at last touch a Torah, having survived all this...   For me, this is the goal of my life accomplished."


One of the Torahs was donated by Sandra Brand, a Holocaust survivor whose whole family died in the camps. She rescued a Torah that had been written in Eastern Europe and had it repaired and dedicated it in memory of her parents, saying that she could think of no holier use for it than to be held by this community, not as a book but as a tree of life