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Czech Memorial Scroll Torah #49

In December of 2019, Congregation Dor Tamid was blessed to become the permanent loan holders of Czech Memorial Scroll #49 which originally is from Lostice, Czechoslovakia.

 After being awarded the Torah from the Memorial Scrolls Trust, Rabbi Jordan Ottenstein and Sisterhood President, Lisa Danzig, flew to Miami to bring this precious scroll to its new home in the Congregation Dor Tamid sanctuary.

Czech Memorial Scroll #49, which now resides in our ark, is used for hakafot during b’nai mitzvah and Confirmation services as well as during conversion ceremonies to provide a connection, not only to the millennia long history of the Jewish people, but also to the specific community in Europe that the scroll comes from.  The scroll is also read from during services that commemorate the Holocaust.

Congregation Dor Tamid held a service of dedication for this scroll on November 13, 2020, on the Shabbat closest to the annual commemoration of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.  Dr. Michael Meyer, the Adolph S. Ochs Professor Emeritus of Jewish History at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio, delivered the guest sermon for this special service.

 

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Lostice, Chzechoslovakia

The Jewish community was part of Lostice's history for almost 400 years. Several significant Jewish intellectuals were born or lived in Lostice, namely the acclaimed rabbi Arje Jehuda ben Rechnitz and his son called Salomo Loschitz, Hebrew scholar Lazar Flamm, rabbis Aron Moses Neuda, Abraham Neuda, Elias Karpelles and Ezriel Gunzig, historian Gustav Karpelles, writers Fanny Neuda and Carola Groag etc. Christians and Jews of Lostice lived together through periods of peace and prosperity and suffered in times of war, plague and economic depression. During that time they lived without serious hostilities, fights and pogroms. Both communities influenced and enriched each other and contributed to the economic, social and cultural growth of the town.

To learn more about Lostice, click here.

 

The  Memorial Scrolls Trust

The 1,564 sacred Scrolls which came to Westminster Synagogue on February 7, 1964, had been gathered together in Prague, from the desolated synagogues of Bohemia and Moravia, by the Nazi official in charge of the Czech "Protectorate." Much more synagogue booty, books, pictures, embroidered vestments, and ceremonial objects of silver and gold were similarly collected by the Nazis, and many of these articles are now in the State Jewish Museum in Prague. The Scrolls themselves lay piled in the disused Michle Synagogue for more than 20 years. It is believed that they were originally gathered for permanent exhibition as relics of a defunct culture.

On February 7, 1964, 1,564 Sifrei Torah – a consignment which must have been unprecedented in Jewish history – arrived at Westminster Synagogue. There they were housed in numbered cradles in specially constructed racks, while the work of inspection and classification was undertaken. Each scroll was expertly examined and a record made of the condition of the parchment, the state of the calligraphy, and (so far as these could be ascertained) the age and place of origin of the scroll. Many of the labels attached more than 20 years before had survived and provided valuable information; and in some cases despairing messages were concealed in the scrolls. On the basis of this painstaking study, the scrolls were classified into grades, ranging from those without serious defect and thus readily usable, to those beyond satisfactory repair and therefore suitable only for commemorative use. Between these were the middle grades, comprising many scrolls which could be made usable by repair, or had some parts which it was possible to restore. The task of inspection and classification was directed by Rabbi Harold Reinhart, the minister of Westminster Synagogue, who gave devoted attention to every aspect of the project until his death in 1969. A committee had been formed to take responsibility for the scrolls, and the formidable task of administering the work of repair and distribution was undertaken by Ruth Shaffer, daughter of the Yiddish novelist and dramatist Sholem Asch.

The completion of the preliminary study and classification was marked, in June 1965, by a solemn assembly at Westminster Synagogue; this was attended by representatives of all sections of the Jewish community and by ministers and scholars of other faiths. The memorial prayers were read by then Chief Rabbi Sir Israel Brodie and a message of good wishes was received from the president of the Prague Jewish community.

Czech memorial scrolls are now in use in many parts of the world. The United States, as might be expected, has been the main recipient; but many requests from Israel have been met, as have others from virtually every country in which Jewish communities flourish freely. In addition, scrolls appropriate as memorials are to be found at Yad Vashem, at Westminster Abbey, in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle, and in many other places where they serve, in Harold Reinhart's words, "to live, to commemorate, to inspire a saddened but not hopeless world, and to glorify the holy Name."

To learn more about the Memorial Scrolls Trust, click here.

Mon, January 17 2022 15 Sh'vat 5782