Stories that connect us- from photos Bohemia and Moravia to meeting together on Zoom, and back to our new bookshop MSTshop.org
MST Newsletter December 2020
Friends, welcome to the 12th issue of our Newsletter.
This has been a very difficult year for everyone, with a world-wide pandemic causing the loss of many dear to us. Although many areas are in lockdown and the number of cases continues to increase, hopefully in the new year the situation will improve and we shall eventually return to a life of normality.
During the course of the year we have continued to contact our scroll-holders, encouraging them to add a page about the scrolls to their websites. We have now made 442 reciprocal links and hope that those who have not yet participated in our Czech Torah webpage project will soon do so.
Our US Director, Lois Roman, and her team of Volunteers, have been active giving talks about the scrolls, reaching audiences all over North America. Please contact us if your community is interested for one to be arranged.
Virtual Visits to the Czech Torah Museum
Although the MST museum and offices have been closed for most of the year, our investments in digitising our early Ruth Shaffer correspondence files and creating a CRM Cloud database have meant we are able to continue our work remotely.
We are very fortunate to have been able to completely restore a Haftarah scroll, complete with nekudot (vowels) and trope (cantillation symbols), which we plan to be used by communities in the future. We have also restored scrolls to kasher and allocated scrolls to new custodians during the course of the year.
We are delighted to announce the publication of the photo book, Light beyond the Shadows, the legacy of the Czech Torah Scrolls and the renewal of Jewish Life in Czechia, photographed by Sheila Pallay and written by Julius Muller. Available to buy now
In 2021 we shall also be publishing the completely rewritten 2nd edition of Out of the Midst of Fire, to include the story of 1000 years of Jewish life in Bohemia and Moravia.
With the help of David Lawson Phd, our new eshop and library will aim to include all books written by Czech Jews or about Czech Jewry.
PS We publish many short articles and Czech Scroll Museum visitor pictures on our Facebook page - please click Facebook Like to keep in touch with us.
Temple Sinai, MA, event January 31st for 'Light Beyond the Shadows'
MST Volunteer, Sheila Pallay’s evocative book focuses on history, future of Jewish life in the former Czechoslovakia
Touching a 250-year-old Torah scroll rescued from the Shoah launched Sheila Pallay on a life-changing journey that culminated with the recent publication by Memorial Scrolls Trust of her collectible new book, Light Beyond the Shadows: The Legacy of the Czech Torah Scrolls and the Renewal of Jewish Life in Czechia.
The experience began in 2015 when Pallay’s congregation, Temple Sinai of Sharon, undertook a year-long restoration of MST Torah scroll 655, one of 1,564 Czech scrolls entrusted to the Memorial Scrolls Trust (MST) in London in 1964. Using her photographic skills to document her synagogue’s restoration of its Torah inspired Pallay to volunteer for the MST and undertake a 13-week journey to the places in Bohemia and Moravia where Jewish communities once thrived.
Pallay and co-author/genealogist Julius Müller’s recently published volume contains hundreds of the 2,000+ images taken by Pallay during their 4-month travels through the former towns and places where Jewish communities once thrived. The photographs depict the depth and breadth of Jewish life eradicated by Naziism and hate. In addition, Pallay’s richly colored images provide a hopeful look at the new Jewish communities arising in modern-day Czechia as well as memorials to the Jews created by Czechian communities because, “it is the right thing to do.”
Essays by Sofer STaM Rabbi Kevin Hale, Temple Sinai Rabbi Joseph Meszler, Memorial Scrolls Trust Chairman Jeffrey Ohrenstein, and others, add texture to this evocative volume.
A Zoom panel discussion about the book will be hosted by Temple Sinai on Sunday, January 31, 2021, at 1:00 pm EST. The program will feature co-authors Pallay and Müller, MST Trustee Lois Roman, and photographs from the book.
On Sunday, February 7, 2021, at 1:00 pm EST, Temple Sinai will host an online screening and live discussion of the documentary film, Commandment 613, about the sacred work of Torah scribe Rabbi Kevin Hale. Filmmakers Miriam Lewin and Randi Ceccine will be on hand to discuss the movie along with Pallay and Rabbi Hale.
Scroll Care programme - the Haftorah scroll from Vyskov
We are delighted to announce the completion of our project to complete the restoration of a Haftarah scroll MST#1140 from Vyskov. This scroll one of the 1564 that survived the Shoah in Prague and has been kept in the Memorial Scrolls Trust museum in London. Due to the very poor condition of the scroll the work has taken many months, however all the nekudot (vowels) and trope (cantillation signs) have been checked and it is now in perfect condition for use.
The Haftorah, a reading from the prophets, takes place after reading from the Torah. It is not possible to determine the origin of reading Haftarot, or when it commenced. Generally the Haftarot are read from a printed book, with vowels and cantillation signs, unlike the Torah. There are some older traditions where the they were read from a special scroll, containing just the prophetic readings that is known as a Sifra De'aftarta (ספרא דאפטרתא). Whilst the Torah is read in its entirety, the Haftarot are only sections read from the books of Nevi’im, prophets. Another difference is that the melody used for chanting the Torah is different to that for the Hafarah.
There is no Rabbinic literature discussing the origin of the Haftarah, however some believe it came about in order to differentiate Jews from the Samaritans, a group who rejected all prophets after Moses.
During the reign of Antiochus lV Epiphanes around 170BCE Jews were forbidden to read the Torah and many believe it was at this time the idea of Haftarot originated. When Torah reading recommenced, reading a Haftarah afterwards continued.
Even if not read by all communities, or on every Shabbat or festival, the Talmud refers to it being read in the presence of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus who lived around 70 CE. The New Testament also refers to readings taking place on Saturday in Jerusalem.
Whereas the tradition is for only adults to read from the Torah, for centuries the Haftarah was often read by minors, possibly to differentiate between the status of the two books. In the past it appears that unlike the Torah, congregations were able to choose which section of the prophets (niviim) to read from as their Haftarah. It is possible the readings were completely random. Even today there are still many variations on which portions are read, between communities.
Have you booked your MST Conversation?
Using Zoom, MST is delighted to offer sessions to provide educational content about the rescue and ongoing commemoration of 1,564 scrolls from Bohemia and Moravia. These scrolls survived the Shoah and have been spread around the world for safe keeping and to pay tribute to so many lost communities. Our story resonates with all kinds of people: scroll holders, non-scroll-holders, people of all faiths and backgrounds but especially seniors and B’nai mitzvoth students. Our virtual content can help educate and entertain during this unusual time of social distancing requirements.
We offer, free of charge, opportunities to share our programming and expertise with your congregations. We have volunteer Experts available to speak about the following topics:
The Czech Scroll Story: From Bohemia and Moravia to the Diaspora
Our Binder (wimpel) collection: Custom-made Textiles representing 200 years of Jewish life in the Czech Republic
Czech Jewish Towns: A photo journey about the towns that held scrolls
During lockdown, we are reminding scroll holders that, if possible, you should "air" your scrolls, to stop the build up of any moisture or fungal spores. Scrolls should be rolled from beginning to end once a year, even if your scroll is a Memorial and not readable. We’ll be doing the same with our scrolls in the Czech scroll museum until we are allowed to re-open.