Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A Second Life

Our scrolls are certainly a memorial to the lost Jewish communities of Bohemia and Moravia. We believe, however, that the idea of a memorial is something that lives in the present as well as recalling the past. It is for this reason that we encourage our scroll-holders to involve their scrolls in the current life of the congregation. A Torah scroll should not just sit in a display case and be looked at as a dead relic of a dead community. It needs to work, and it has so much to share.


I was delighted to see the following on the website of Congregation Achduth Vesholom in Fort Wayne, Indiana:

"In early June 1997, after several months of exploration, a call was placed to London, England. Within the first few moments of that call to the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust at the Westminster Synagogue, it was made clear that the Temple was ready to assume the responsibility of having a memorial scroll on permanent loan ... a condition of guardianship. We were cautioned that all undamaged Torahs had been released much earlier world-wide, and that the Temple would be receiving a badly damaged scroll:  Torah #1172.

Five days later, the Torah was delivered to Achduth Vesholom by a member of the congregation who had volunteered to retrieve it from London. As the 300-year-old parchment was gently unrolled to its full length, its devastation became increasingly obvious. Indeed, before us lay a broken piece of history. Three books were missing. Of the two remaining - Deuteronomy and Numbers - only parts were readable. Fire and water damage bore testimony to the horror to which that Torah had been a silent witness.

As the Temple was in process of commissioning a Torah to commemorate the congregation's 150th anniversary, an idea was placed before Dr. Eric E. L. Ray, the master scribe who had been hired for this project. After critical examination by Dr. Ray, we were advised that our devastatingly crippled treasure could be restored - its destroyed sections rewritten and the new pages interspersed among the old - to become a living link to the past ... a poignant symbol of the indestructibility of our people.

On Sunday, October 11, 1998 - nearly one year after the task was begun - the Torah was completed in the Temple's sanctuary and presented to the congregation by Dr. Ray. On Simchat Torah, the scroll was unrolled around the perimeter of the sanctuary and, having risen from the darkest period in Jewish history, once again enfolded those celebrating its origins. On Saturday, October 17, 1998 ... the Shabbat morning celebrating the 150th anniversary of our congregation ... Torah #1172 was read for the first time in its new home."

The Temple website may be found here

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