Holocaust Memorial Torah
Our Czech Holocaust Memorial Torah
At Congregation Beth Hatikvah we are privileged to have Czech Memorial Torah Scroll #389, which was written in 1820. It is believed to be one of the Torahs from the town of Slany, about 20 miles north of Prague. Once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire now in the Czech Republic.
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 Memorial Scrolls Committee of Westminster Synagogue in London arranged for the shipment of 1564 scrolls to the Synagogue, where they were catalogued and repaired and restored when possible. 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 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 honoured etc." More information about the Memorial Scrolls Trust is available on their website.
Our Holocaust Torah cover was hand-made by our own CBH member Walter Gerstenmeier. Walter was asked about his design and his response was as follows:
“I used the Hebrew word zachor which means remember, to preserve and keep alive the story of the Holocaust. As for the colors: I chose green for the base as green is a symbol of life, representing the living survivors of the Holocaust who have told of their experiences, and to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive so that this will never happen again. The Star of David is comprised of six different intersecting colors. The red stands for the blood and lives lost of the six million Jews, as well as millions of other lives. The yellow stands for the stars the Nazis forced the Jews to wear, and the pink for the pink triangles that had to be worn by gays and lesbians. The orange represents the fires on the night of Kristalnacht, when Jewish enclaves, synagogues, and businesses were destroyed. The purple represents the valor and courage of the righteous Gentiles who did what they could to aid, shelter, and rescue people, even under threat of severe punishment or death. The blue was chosen as a symbol of faith and hope.”