FJMC’s Sefer Haftarah program began in 2002. The Sefer Haftarah scroll was created in Israel and contains all Haftorot, including vowels and trop.
Since it was first unveiled during the 2003 FJMC Biennial Convention in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, the FJMC Sefer Haftarah scroll has travelled around North America to Men’s Clubs and Brotherhoods, to regional retreats and to FJMC conventions. It has been used in synagogues from West Coast to East Coast, and from Florida to Canada.
The Haftarah has been part of Jewish liturgy since Roman times. It was introduced in order to counter a Roman decree that forbade the reading of the Torah in public assemblies. During the 9th Century CE, the Ben Asher family developed the system of cantillation and punctuation (trop and k’tiv). From that time onward, it became traditional for the haftarot to be chanted. It was common during the Middle Ages to have books of the prophets in the Ark next to the Torah scrolls. When it became time to read from the Haftarah, a scroll was taken out of the Ark and the Haftarah was chanted. Books of haftorot in scroll form have been in use for more than a century but have almost been totally eclipsed by the printing press. The Haftarah, unlike the Torah, does not have to be chanted from a scroll (though many of us feel it would enhance the spirituality of the act if it were read from a scroll instead of a book).
When several FJMC members were in Jerusalem, they had the opportunity to view a Sefer Haftarah scroll that had been commissioned for an Orthodox synagogue. They immediately saw a number of possibilities if FJMC commissioned its own scroll. The scroll has the outward appearance of a Torah scroll and contains all the Haftarot chanted during the year. It was written by one of the finest scribal groups in Israel. The differences between the Sefer Haftarah and a Torah are readily apparent, however, as soon as one opens the scroll. The Haftarah scroll, unlike the Torah, has the vowels and the trop cantillation, which facilitate the chanting of it. Also, the Haftarah scroll lists the various sponsorships of the individual Haftarot. The main purpose behind commissioning the Haftarah scroll was utilitarian in nature. FJMC would now have a scroll that could travel from Men’s Club to Men’s Club to be used in congregations all across North America. It would create a sense of pride and accomplishment among the member clubs and provide opportunities for them to highlight FJMC activities for members of their congregations. Additionally, FJMC would use the scroll at its various conventions and meetings, while FJMC regions would use it at their retreats. Sponsorships would enable FJMC to subsidize the administrative costs of transporting the scroll across North America. FJMC dedicated its Sefer Haftarah scroll during its 2003 international convention; incoming international president Danny Stern chanted the first Haftarah from it.
To download the form for sponsoring a dedication in the FJMC Sefer Haftarah scroll, click here.
At the end of June 2013, Andy Alper had occasion to divert the route of the FJMC Sefer Haftarah Scroll to New City, NY, so photos could be taken of the individual Haftarah readings. The photos will allow readers to practice in advance from an image of the actual FJMC Sefer Haftarah Scroll, and feel more comfortable when they read from the scroll.
We give thanks to Richard Alan Fox (shown below), artist and photographer, for patiently photographing not only the FJMC scroll, but also our New City Jewish Center Sefer Haftarah Scroll.
If you print out the pdf files, do not discard the printed copies because they have the name of HaShem on them. Your synagogue office may have arrangements for the proper disposal of these copies. Electronic copies are not a cause for the same concern.
The PDF files can be found by clicking here.