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The Czech Torah Scrolls

In 1942, as the deportation of Czech Jews to the death camps escalated to its peak, the curators of the Jewish Museum in Prague undertook an extraordinary mission. Realizing they could do nothing to save the Jewish people or themselves, they sought to rescue the Torah scrolls and other treasures from the now deserted synagogues across Czechoslovakia.

As an act of great spiritual resistance to Nazi persecution, more than 212,000 artifacts were brought to Prague, including 1,800 Torah scrolls. Until they were themselves deported to Terezin or Auschwitz-Birkenau, the museum curators carried out their sacred mission to preserve the heritage of the Czech Jewish communities for future generations.

In 1963, the Czech government offered Eric Estorick, a British art dealer, the opportunity to purchase some of the Torah scrolls. He contacted a client, Ralph Yablon, who in turn contacted Rabbi Harold Reinhart of Westminster Synagogue in London. Ralph Yablon funded the purchase of all 1,534 Torah scrolls. They arrived in London on February 7, 1964.

Westminster Synagogue founded the Czech Memorial Scrolls Museum to house some of the scrolls and established the Memorial Scrolls Trust so that the majority of the Czech Torah scrolls could be allocated to congregations around the world who pledge to give the Torah scroll a prominent place in the life of the congregation.

Czech Memorial Scroll 1386

This Torah scroll was written in 1700. It belonged to the members of the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague. The Pinkas synagogue still exists today. This Torah scroll is displayed prominently in a glass case outside the sanctuary.

Czech Memorial Scroll 488

This Torah scroll was written in the late 19th century. It belonged to the small Jewish community of Holesov comprised of 273 families. We read from this Torah scroll on Rosh haShanah morning.

Tue, June 18 2024 12 Sivan 5784