Our Czech Memorial Torah Scroll
At Temple Shalom we are privileged to have Czech Memorial Torah Scroll #1103, which is estimated to be more than 120 years old. The scroll came from Pardubice, a small town now in the Czech republic. The Nazis closed the synagogue in October 1942. By year’s end, all of the Jews had been deported to Theresienstadt.
The torah came to Temple Shalom in September of 1967 through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph Bergenfeld. Miriam Bergenfeld was a Holocaust survivor and knew that her grandfather had buried scrolls. It was this connection that she asked for the privilege of acquiring the scroll. It has been used continuously here at Temple Shalom for the High Holy Days as well as b’nai mitzvah ever since.
The Nazis collected gold and silver ornaments, ceremonial objects and Torah scrolls from towns all over Europe. [See note] A group of Czechoslovakian Jews was forced to arrange and catalogue the items which had been assembled in Prague. After the war, the Communist Government of Czechoslovakia released the Torahs scrolls.
In 1964 the Westminster Synagogue in London received 1564 Torah and other scrolls which were then evaluated and restored if possible. This was thanks to Ralph Yablon who donated all the money required by the Czech Government. Each Torah was given a numbered brass plaque to identify its origin. Scrolls that could not be made fit for synagogue use were sent to religious and educational institutions as solemn memorials. Those that were repaired and could be used in religious service were sent to fulfill requests of synagogues all over the world in return for a contribution toward restoration expenses.
The Memorial Scrolls Trust, a U.K. non-profit organization, has recently begun to reach out to synagogues and other institutions who received the Czech scrolls to gather updated information about them. They plan to continue to enhance their website so it becomes “a repository of all knowledge concerning the 1564 scrolls, the Jewish history of the towns they came from, the Jews of those towns, their fate, survivors stories, photos etc. They will also note where the scrolls are now, how they are used and honored etc.” More information about the Memorial Scrolls Trust is available on their website (www.memorialscrollstrust.org).
Note: Previously it had been thought that the Czech scrolls and other Jewish ceremonial objects had been collected by the Nazis as part of a plan to set up a “museum of an extinct race” after the war. As it turns out there is apparently no documentary proof for this theory, and recent studies indicate that the saving of scrolls and other ritual objects was the result of actions of members of the Jewish community.
For more information, see: http://czechscrolls.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/mythbusters.html