Our Czech Scroll
Our Czech Scroll
Didn’t know we had one, what is it, where is it? Common questions and I will try and give answers.
In 1965 Rabi Dr. Graf entered into correspondence with Rabbi Dr. Reinhart of the Westminster Synagogue and the following year Louis Lermon took possession of an allocated scroll, which now sits, proudly in the top left hand side of the Ark.
A little bit of history. The Nazis invaded Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939 causing little destruction, possibly as they wished to benefit from the Czech armaments industry. However, the Nazis immediately took over Jewish businesses and property, forcing congregations to close and using the Jewish community administration to enforce their demands and decrees.
In 1942 the communities were instructed to pack their Sifrei Torah, gold and silver finials, books and textiles and send them to the Jewish Museum in Prague. There had been at least 350 synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia and more than 212,000 artefacts were brought to the Museum, among them about 1800 scrolls.
For many years it was erroneously believed that the Germans had intended to create a Museum of an Extinct race but there are no documents to support this.
After the war some fifty Jewish congregations established themselves in Czechoslovakia and were provided with religious artefacts, not necessarily from their own communities. When the Communists took over the government in 1948 Jewish communal life was again stifled and most synagogues were closed. The scrolls were transferred to a ruined synagogue outside Prague and there they remained until 1564 scrolls came to London in 1964 .Our shul was one of the first to express an interest in receiving one of them.
Over several months a team of sofrim (scribes) examined the scrolls to determine which were kosher, could be repaired and/or restored and which were in such a poor condition that they could only be used as part of a memorial.
Subsequently the Memorial Scrolls Trust was set up and scrolls have been allocated to communities around the world. The scrolls are never sold or donated but allocated on loan. Communities that close or merge with other Czech scroll-holders are obliged to return their scroll to the Trust.