After a four-year restoration, a Torah dating back to the 13th century is headed home to a synagogue in Biella, a town in northern Italy, where it will retake its place as “probably the oldest [Torah scroll] in the world still owned and used by a Jewish community,” the JTA reported on Thursday.
Dario Disegni, the president of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Italy, told a meeting of the Foundation board in Rome on Wednesday that carbon-14 dating carried out by the Geo-chronology Laboratory of the University of Illinois dated the scroll to around 1250. “This is exciting news that is of extraordinary importance for Italian Judaism,” he said.
The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Italy has also started a fundraising page to cover the costs of the restoration, totalling $22,000.
While older Torah scrolls are fairly common, Amedeo Spagnoletto, the scroll’s sofer, explained, it’s rare to find scrolls that have not had pieces of parchment replaced over the centuries; furthermore, many are no longer in use—for example, another Italian scroll, carbon dated in 2013 to between 1155 and 1225, is owned by the University of Bologna.
And in case you want a piece of the action, here are eBay listings for “Italy + Torah + Scroll.” At the moment, for either of two 18th century scrolls, shipping from Israel, it’ll cost you between $11,000 and $12,000. But that pales in comparison to one Torah Scroll dating back to the 15th century, or the pre-Spanish Inquisition—the oldest Spanish Torah scroll known—which in 2009 sold for $400,000.