Our Memorial Torah

The Czech Scroll – Holocaust Memorial Torah #723

Temple Beth Shalom is honored to have Czech Memorial Torah Scroll #723, which was scribed in the middle of the 18th century from the area of Pisek and Strakonice.

Jewish inhabitants formed a small percentage of the total of Písek, where a grand synagogue
was built between the Smetanova and Soukenická Streets. It was closed during the Nazi occupation and not reopened after the war.

It is impossible to be certain exactly when Jews settled in the town and surroundings of Strakonaice. At the end of the 19th century, the area did not accept Jews and it is also known that even after that time Jewish merchants were unable to succeed there. It is known that the Jews had their cemeteries and prayer houses in the Strakonice area at a much earlier date.

Yad Vashem records state that around 200 people with a connection to Pisek perished in the Holocaust.

The Nazis collected gold and silver ornaments, ceremonial objects and Torah scrolls from towns all over Europe. 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, Torah Scrolls from Czechoslovakia arrived at Westminster Synagogue in London.  There were 1564 torahs from hundreds of Jewish communities that had been destroyed during the Holocaust.  Westminster Synagogue arranged for these 1564 scrolls to be shipped across Europe to London where they were catalogued, repaired and restored, if possible. Each Torah was given a numbered brass plaque that identified its origin. Scrolls that could not be restored were sent to religious and educational institutions as memorials. Scrolls repaired and able to be used in religious services 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 instititutions 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. Also where the scrolls are now, how they are used and honored etc.” More information about the Memorial Scrolls Trust is available on their website.

Our Story:

When Jules Rothman heard of the precious Czech scrolls, he and Rabbi Abrami, both of Temple Beth Shalom, started a series of communications with Memorial Scrolls Trust in London.  Together, Jules and Rabbi Abrami instituted plans to purchase and transport a torah to Temple Beth Shalom.  Through a very generous donation from Eva and Eugene Schlesinger (OBM), the necessary funds were provided to make the dream a reality.

In 1994, the torah arrived at its new home and set in motion a concerted effort to design and construct a fitting and proper resting place for the scroll.  A beautiful display case designed by distinguished artist Ron Simmons and constructed by multi-talented Nelson Fishman, both members of Temple Beth Shalom, is further testimony to the extreme concern exercised by all to preserve and protect this scroll of holy writings.

The certificate of identification for Memorial Torah Scroll #723.

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

http://czechscrolls.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/background-to-busting-myth.html