Sefer Torah #1240, on permanent loan to our congregation from the Memorial Scrolls Trust, is one of 1,564 Czech memorial Sifrei Torah that constituted part of the treasures looted by the Nazis during World War II. The Nazis gathered Torah scrolls and other ceremonial object from the desecrated synagogues of Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia. The Jews who once celebrated life with these sacred objects were victims of the Nazis’ “final solution to the Jewish problem.” The treasures–gold and silver ornaments, vestments, pictures, books and manuscripts–were gathered and stored in warehouses in Prague.
The task of arranging and cataloging these items was assigned to talented and knowledgeable Jews who received a temporary reprieve for the appointed labor before being shipped off for extermination. The booty included 1,564 Sifrei Torah, Scrolls of the Law. When the “thousand-year Reich” came to an end, after period significantly less than a thousand years, the Scrolls were rescued with the other treasures. However, for more than twenty years following liberation, the Torah scrolls, under the control of the Czechoslovakian State Authorities, lay piled in the disused Michle Synagogue in Prague. In 1964, with the generosity and interest of English Jews, and the help and assistance of the Czech government, the Scrolls were brought to Westminster Synagogue in London. There they were carefully unpacked and numbered, inspected and, where possible, restored by scribes for ritual use.
Some of the collection remains at the Memorial Scrolls Trust museum as a permanent memorial to the martyrs from whose synagogues they came; many are distributed throughout the world to synagogues such as ours, on permanent loan, to serve as memorials everywhere to the victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) and to spread light as harbingers of a future of peace on earth. All carry with them the hope that they may yet find life and purpose as living memorials to the communities that perished.
Memorial Scroll #1240 came to our congregation in 1982 and was dedicated that September. Generous financial assistance to help acquire and transport the scroll from England, was provided by our friends at the Church of the Messiah in Woods Hole, MA. The Memorial Scrolls Trust has no specific information about the origin of this particular scroll but it is known to be of Moravian origins. It is estimated to be between 100-150 years old and is a particularly beautiful example of Jewish scribal arts.
Our Memorial Scroll is one of three sifrei Torah in our congregation and, like its “siblings”, is used and treasured, never more so than on Yom Ha-Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when it is removed from the Ark and held lovingly by participants in our service.
Click on this link to learn more about the Memorial Scrolls Trust.