Former NASCAR Driver Wows New Jersey Synagogue by Reading Torah Like a Pro
A former NASCAR driver was applauded for his reading of a biblical passage at a New Jersey synagogue on Saturday.
“People were extremely impressed by the poise and the manner in which [Jon Denning] read the Torah on Shabbat,” said Rabbi Mendel Solomon of Chabad at Short Hills, as reported by Chabad.org. “It was very beautiful and slow and precise.”
Denning, 29, read from the Torah at his “aufruf” — the recitation made by a groom either before or after his wedding, depending on whether he is of Eastern European or Sephardi background. The Springfield, N.J., native is set to marry 28-year-old speech pathologist Noa Haase on July 3.
The former racing pro said that the last time he read from the Torah was almost 10 years ago, but he was determined to do it again before his wedding.
“Celebrating with an aufruf just seemed like the natural thing to do. And to do so in the same manner my ancestors did by reading the Torah, it’s like a bar or bat mitzvah — a passage into the next chapter of life,” said Denning, who spent six years racing for NASCAR before retiring in 2009. “It’s a very emotional and meaningful experience, especially when you don’t read from the Torah all the time and have to spend hours learning to do so.”
With the help of “Torah Trainer” — online software created by Chabad.org to help users learn portions of the Old Testament and its blessings — Denning said he was not nervous at all when he was called up to the Torah. He instead reflected on the beauty of the handwritten words he was reading, according to Chabad.
Denning said he would embrace the opportunity to do it all again.
“At meaningful points in my life, I would be honored to,” he said. “It’s an almost unrivaled sense of accomplishment because of the spiritual aspect of reading the Torah. When you kiss and close the Torah after your aliyah, it’s a beautiful feeling.”