Our Treasured Czech Memorial Trust Torah
Beth Chaim has the honor and responsibility to be the guardian of Torah Scroll number 266, which is originally from a Synagogue in Strasnice, Czechoslovakia. This is one of the 1,564 Torahs curated by the Memorial Scrolls Trust located at the Westminster Synagogue, in London, England. It is on permanent loan to Beth Chaim. The in depth story of these Torahs’ histories and how they ultimately ended up in Westminster is detailed on the Memorial Scrolls Trust website. This is a fascinating read! memorialscrollstrust.org
These Torah Scrolls, along with other Jewish cultural treasures from communities in the Bohemia and Moravia regions in Czechoslovakia, were gathered and sent to the Jewish Museum in occupied Prague in 1940 when the synagogues were closed down by the Nazis. The paths that these Torahs took to the Westminster Synagogue and subsequently around the world on permanent loan to Congregations like ours is related in this document from the Memorial Scroll Trust that is hanging in our foyer. When our B’nai Mitzvah students read from the Torah they create a powerful symbol of the Jewish people’s strength and continuity.
In 2013 this memorial Torah was lovingly repaired and restored by Rabbi Kevin Hale, a certified Sofer approved by the Memorial Scrolls Trust. His careful work included darkening faded letters and patching and sewing places where the scroll had become thin or torn. Harry Levin, a talented woodworker and father of congregation member Roberta Gabriel then created from African dark wood and Brazilian cherry a gorgeous Atzai Chayim, the wooden dowel rod that turns the scroll. A plaque is attached to the Torah to clearly identify it as a sacred scroll that is a survivor of the Holocaust. We lovingly rededicated this Torah on April 27th, 2013 with a Siyyum, which is a concluding celebration in honor of the restored Torah Scroll.