BOB ABERNETHY: Now, the sofer. In Jewish life, the sofer is an artist who copies and restores Torah scrolls, the first five books of the Old Testament. Portions of the Torah are read regularly in synagogue services, with the whole Torah read in the course of a year. The earliest found fragments of a Torah were among the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea scrolls. Our correspondent Arthur Magida found a sofer in New Jersey who's giving new life to a Torah rescued from the ruins of the Holocaust.
ARTHUR MAGIDA: Neil Yerman hears voices, the voices of each of the 9,000 Jews the Nazis slaughtered in a three-day killing spree in 1941 in the Polish town of Ostrow. Yerman is a sofer, a scribe. He writes and restores Torah scrolls, more than 200 by now. And with each letter he writes in a scroll he is now restoring, the Torah which came from Ostrow, he says he hears the name of the souls from that town.
Mr. NEIL YERMAN (Sofer): In a case like this, I feel that there are many, many, many others present whose presence I might not normally feel as much. I feel in a way, there are 9,000 people with me every time I'm in the scrolls, and they're watching and whispering. They're with me. So it's an incredible feeling.
MAGIDA: This one-year Torah restoration project at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, has moved congregants in unexpected ways. Just seeing the desecrated scrolls gives them a glimmer of the trauma that the Jews suffered under the Nazis and of the timelessness of Torah.
Ms. SHIRLEY CHESS: The minute I put my hand on the quill and on our scribe's hand as he wrote the letter, restored the letter, I just felt a spark that seemed to jump right from the Torah to my heart. And I feel even more connected than I ever felt before. It made me a part of all those lives that I can't help thinking about.
MAGIDA: Restoring the Torah restores it to life, and that life corresponds, in this case, says Rabbi Jerome David of Temple Emanuel, to the Jews who once lived in Ostrow.
Rabbi JEROME DAVID (Temple Emanuel): In restoring a letter, you restore a name. You give birth to a name; you give birth to a life. So in a sense, this community is starting to live again. And we speculate -- the children do -- about what were these lives like? There were grandparents, we know for sure.
Dr. ARNOLD BASKIES: My great-grandfather, whose name was Moishe Shules Okimaka, was a -- a leader in his community, and unfortunately perished at the hands of the Nazis on the steps of his synagogue -- more than likely, trying to either get in or get out of the synagogue on the day that they arrived.
Rabbi DAVID: Over three days of very brutal killing, that entire proud Jewish community vanished with just a couple survivors to tell the -- of the horrible events. And I think our people have been touched by that sense that they are literally connecting with a population, with a community that lived, you know, many, many years before and -- no longer exists.