Thursday 26 March 2015

MST #486 Finds a New Home on Loan in New Hampshire

Rabbi David Senter and his wife Elissa just shared this photo journal of their journey to collect our scroll MST #486 on loan and take it to its new home at Temple Israel in Portsmouth NH. Mazal tov to Temple Israel, and myriad thanks to Rabbi Norman Patz for his loving care for the scroll while it waited for reassignment.

.Copyright © 2015 Temple Israel, All rights reserved. 

Thursday 19 March 2015

Arizona Scrolls Reunion Procession

Last month all the MST Scrolls in Arizona gathered for a reunion. It was a most moving experience and one we recommend to all our scroll-holders. If you are interested in being part of a similar event, do let us know so we may work together to create it!

MST #310 leaves on loan to West London Synagogue

MST Chair Jeffrey Ohrenstein hands the scroll to Rabbi David Mitchell of WLS

The Memorial Scrolls Trust is thrilled to report that our orphan scroll MST #310 was officially handed over on loan to West London Synagogue on the 18th of March, 2015. Rabbi David Mitchell and Wendy Pollecoff Woolf collected the scroll from the MST Museum and transported it carefully to the synagogue sanctuary.
MST #310 previously spent several years serving the Jewish community in Bangor, North Wales. ReverendMalcolm Weisman remembers that the scroll had its own aron hakodesh (ark) there and was kept for many years in the house of Isaac Pollecoff, Wendy’s great uncle.
The scroll will be officially welcomed at WLS on the 20th of March at the Kabbalat Shabbat service marking 175 years of liturgy at the synagogue. Asher Swidler will carry the scroll in, and the next day he will be the first to read from MST #310 for many years as he celebrates becoming Bar Mitzvah.
MST #310 has many years of work ahead, meeting thousands of students each year as part of their study of Judaism, Torah and the story of the Czech Scrolls. Mazal tov to all involved in this wonderful project!

MST #310 in the West London Synagogue Sanctuary

Wednesday 11 March 2015

MST #444 & Mayor Teddy Kollek in Aspen

While working on some research about MST scrolls collected in Prague-Strasnice, we just came upon this little gem via the website of the Aspen Jewish Congregation in Colorado. The page that tells the history of the community has a note about its Torah scrolls and states:

Our first Torah came from the Westminster Synagogue in London. The torahs that were confiscated in the Prague and elsewhere in Czechoslovakia during WWll and survived the Holocaust were eventually sent to London to be restored. They created a registry know as the Memorial Scrolls Trust. We received one of those Torah scrolls on a perpetual loan.  Herman and Marty Edel flew to London and arranged for this first Torah to be shipped to Aspen. It was a historical and joyous event for the AJC. There was no ark, so Herb Weisbard built one by hand. The congregation got together and carved letters from the Ten Commandments on the ark doors. Mayor Teddy Kolek of Jerusalem was visiting Aspen, and he carved a letter, too. This is the very same Ark we use today.  

Mayor Teddy Kollek helped to build an ark to hold our scroll MST #444. Who knew?!

We love this story, and we love the folk in Aspen because they have also put a direct link to the MST website on that web page. Every one of our scroll-holders should be doing that! Have you done that yet? Why not?!

Thoughts of Richard Zelin on a visit to Prague


From darkness to light

Prague 3
Outside of Old-New “Golem” Synagogue in Prague.
This winter, my family and I visited Prague, home to the 16th century legend about the Golem, a mythical figure who protects the Jewish community. Like other major East European cities, Prague faced, in a cruel historic irony on the Golem legend, the twin evils of the 20th century: both Nazism and Communism. The anti-Semitic and murderous totalitarian regimes of Germany and the Soviet Union wreaked havoc on the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, leaving “a hole in the heart of the world,” as chronicled by Jonathan Kaufman in his riveting book about the Jewish experience in those countries before and after the war.
The unspeakable crimes of the Nazis was brought home to us, in vivid and shocking display, when on a bitterly cold and dreary winter day, we touredTheresienstadt, a Nazi labor camp 40 kilometers north of Prague, where approximately 70,000 Jews brutally died either because of the horrendous conditions in the camp or because they were eventually transported to Auschwitz, where they met their ultimate demise. 
Not only were an unimaginable number of Jewish lives tragically lost, but also in the aftermath of the Nazi (and subsequent Communist) takeover of Czechoslovakia, the country’s vibrant Jewish religious and cultural life was almost completely wiped out, with many synagogues either abandoned or destroyed.   
However, while touring the old Jewish quarter of Prague, which has become a popular tourist attraction since the Velvet Revolution and downfall of Communism, I happened upon a fascinating and inspiring story, with a Chicago connection. In defiance of the Nazis’ nefarious plan to extinguish Jewish life throughout Europe, I learned that in 1942, a group of dedicated Prague Jews helped save approximately 1,600 Torah scrolls from synagogues in Prague and the surrounding Jewish communities by bringing them to the Central Jewish Museum (and later housing them in the Michle Synagogue outside of Prague), where they were cared for, so it was hoped they could be used again after the war.
Tragically, all but two of the curators of the museum, who repaired and carefully documented where each scroll had originally come from, died in the Holocaust, meaning that their sacred work could no longer continue. But in another miraculous twist of fate, in 1963, Rabbi Harold Reinhart of London’s Westminster Synagogue, with the help of a number of prominent British philanthropists, purchased the scrolls from the Communist Czechoslovakian government and brought them to London, where they have been preserved. The full story about the Prague scrolls is told in Philippa Bernard’s powerful book, Out of the Midst of Fire.      
Today, through the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust, many of the scrolls are on permanent loan throughout the world. Besides making them available to Jewish communities around the globe, in 2008, the Trust opened a museum in the Westminster complex containing a poignant exhibit about the rescue of the scrolls.
When I returned home, I discovered that 20 synagogues in the Chicago area are using them for religious and/or educational purposes. I was especially delighted to hear that one of the scrolls, originally from Prossnitz, located east of Prague, where a number of leading Jewish intellectuals had lived, is at my own synagogue, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park. They are also being used at both Camp Ramah and Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute. There is also one on display at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie.
Besides their religious, educational, and cultural significance, the saved Torah scrolls help celebrate the revival of Jewish life in Prague, albeit on a dramatically smaller scale than before the war, as well as help enrich our own community by connecting us to our past and giving us hope for the future. This remarkable achievement also gives concrete expression to the renowned Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim’s famous dictum of not providing any posthumous victories to Hitler. Indeed, this uplifting tale, while not new, is today a positive antidote to the latest troubling developments in Europe, particularly in France, where extremism and anti-Semitism have reared their ugly heads again.
Richard D. Zelin, Ph.D. was Associate Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish United Fund and Director of the Chicago Conference on Soviet Jewry.

Monday 9 March 2015

Man Suspected of Murdering the Fiedlers Arrested in Prague

Over one year after the shocking murder of our friend Jiri Fiedler and his wife in their flat in Prague, news has reached us that a suspect has been arrested in the case. The JTA reports:

"After a yearlong investigation, the man suspected of the brutal crime was arrested in western Czech Republic ... police investigators told reporters. The man belonged to the couple's wider circle of acquaintances, the police said, and robbery was ascribed as the motive. The suspect has confessed to the crime, investigators said."

An article may be found in the Forward. A fuller version may be found in the Prague Daily Monitor.

May they rest in peace.

MST Travelling Exhibition visits Bromsgrove School

We are delighted to note that the MST Travelling Exhibition has just returned from a week at the Bromsgrove School in Worcestershire. Not only did all students have an opportunity to view and enjoy this mini version of the Memorial Scrolls Museum, but Year 9 students also had a special lesson about the scrolls. We thank our trustee Sarah Derriey for arranging the visit and transporting the exhibit. Do let us know if you would like the Travelling Exhibition to come to you!

Sofer David Brand z"l

t is with profound sadness that the Memorial Scrolls Trust shares the news we have just received that our beloved Sofer David Brand died in Israel at the beginning of February. Baruch Dayan Ha-Emet. May his memory be for a blessing.