We are privileged to have this Czech Memorial Torah Scroll, written in 1820. It is believed to have be one of the torahs from the town of Slany about 20 miles north of Prague. When the Nazis closed the country's synagogues, our torah, along with torahs, mantles and other religious items from all over Czechoslovakia were sent to the Jewish Museum in Prague. Jewish workers were forced to tattoo a number on each torah and to record the number and the place from which each item had been taken. In 1948, after the war was over, the torahs were transferred to a warehouse that had previosly been Michle synagogue. The scrolls remained in the warehouse on damp, dusty, dirty shelves for many years until they were rescued in 1964 by the Memorial Scrolls Committee of Westminster Synagogue. 1564 scrolls were shipped in sealed railroad cars to London where they were catalogued, repaired and restored when possible. Each torah was given a brass plaque to identify its origin.
Beth Hatikvah received its Sefer Torah #389 in 2006, along with the rimonim and breastplate from Beth Rachamim, a synagogue in Florida which had previously used the Torah. Interestingly, and perhaps significantly, Beth Rachamim was a gay and lesbian synagogue, which was then merging with another congregation since the Jewish community had evolved to a point where they no longer felt that a separate community was necessary or desirable and that the Jewish community should be united. When the torah arrived at Beth Hatikvah, money was donated by members of our community to restore it.
Most of the year, our Holocaust Torah is on display in the glass case in our front entry. It is given pride of place with our other torahs on the bimah during High Holidays, and is read from on special occasions.
Our Holocaust Torah cover was hand-made by CBH member Walter Gerstenmeier. Walter explained the cover's symbolism:
I used the Hebrew word zachor which means "remember", to preserve and keep alive the story of the Holocaust.
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.