Jewish scribe restores Book of Esther scroll for Catholic nuns in time for Purim

( A collaboration between an order of nuns and a British Jewish scribe to restore an ancient Hebrew scroll telling the story of Purim is drawing attention as a sign of progress in Catholic-Jewish relations.

Sofer (scribe) Mordechai Pinchas restored a megillah (scroll) of the Book of Esther and returned it to the Benedictine Tyburn Nuns at a London ceremony last week.

A Hebrew scribe restored a scroll of the Book of Esther (similar to the one pictured here), which tells the story of Purim, for a Catholic nun order. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The parchment was written in Venice, Italy in the 18th century. It was donated to the order of nuns by Jordan and Lorraine Cherrick from St. Louis, Mo. The scroll is "a biblical artifact symbolizing ever-deepening Jewish-Catholic relations," said Mother General Xavier McMonagle, according to the British Catholic Herald.

"It all shows something more than academic theological exercise. We get to know each other as real people. You can tell there is something deeper going on," she said.

The book of Esther tells the story of how Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai save the Jews from extermination by Haman, the royal advisor to King Ahasuerus of Persia. Jews around the world commemorate annually on the holiday of Purim, which this year begins after Shabbat on March 15.

According to McMonagle, the figure of Esther "has remained very powerful in Catholic Christian religion, devotion, and spirituality as a symbol, an image, and a model of powerful intercession with God to change the course of human events from bad to good."

"The need for Esther’s example is ever present in our minds, whether we are Christians or Jews," McMonagle said. "Esther is a memorial, a living point of confidence that God can change things for the better, and he can do it even by working miracles."

Formerly known as the Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre, the Tyburn Nuns received their nickname due to the location of their motherhouse, which stands next to the site of the Tyburn gallows. Their 105 canonized or beatified Catholic martyrs were executed during the Reformation era.

Posted on March 10, 2014 .