For centuries, spiritual faith has been shaped in part by how its scribes form the letters of their sacred texts. This is particularly the case with Judaism. We visit with three scribes in three very different corners of Jewish faith—Jerusalem; New York City’s Orthodox neighborhood in Brooklyn; and the liberal enclave of Berkeley, California—to understand why people still go to all this trouble.
It’s about halfway through our first interview when Rabbi Shimon Zeide decides his best option is to just start scribbling. This, I wager, is unusual. Zeide, a Hebrew scribe with nearly thirty years’ experience, is the proprietor of the sofrus supply shop and scribal studio Merkaz Hasofrim, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and he has taught, by his own estimate, over 200 students the art of scribal craft. He definitely doesn’t show them how to scribble.
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