Stories that connect us- from Memoirs from Uhersky Brod and Frydek-Mistek, to meeting together on Zoom, and back to our new bookshop MSTshop.org
60 in '24
MST Newsletter October 2021
HE Anna Azari, Ambassador of the State of Israel to the Czech Republic
Professor Tomas Zima, Rector of Charles University
Hachnassat In Prague, Czech Republic
Welcome to the 20th edition of our Newsletter.
Participating in a Hachnassat celebrating the loan of one of our Czech Torah is always a privilege, however, our most recent Hachnassat was exceptional. After months of careful restoration work in London by Sofer Benarroch, followed by a long period of delay caused by Covid-19, Sefer Torah MST#1052 was finally ready to be taken to Prague. On Friday 24 October, we re-opened our museum for the first time in over a year to welcome Andrew Keene, Vice Chair of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, who made a special stop en route to Prague.
That Sunday morning, our Project Manager Donal Savage, Andrew Keene and I accompanied the Torah to Prague, a journey for which it had its own seat. On arrival we met Sonja Geutner, Chair of the European Union for Progressive Judaism, who had flown in for the occasion.
The Hachnassat was held at the Charles University in Prague with a full house with dignitaries including H.E. Anna Azari, the Israeli Ambassador to Czechia. This unique and moving occasion was streamed on you FaceBook with an estimated audience of over 1500 people. This Torah, allocated to a nascent Reform community, is the second one we have allocated in the Czech Republic. The first was loaned to Zidovska Obec Olomouc in 2017. After the ceremony, the scroll was taken to its new home with Congregation Ec Chajim, a Progressive Jewish community in Prague.
Mariana Kapkova, Representative of the City of Prague
Leslie Bergman, World Union for Progressive Judaism
Sonja Guentner, Chair of European Union for Progressive Judaism, Vice Chair of the World Union for Progressive Judaism
Andrew Keene, Vice Chair of the World Union for Progressive Judaism
Simchat Torah in Prague
On the Tuesday morning, we attended Simchat Torah at Ec Chajim, with several of us having the Mitzvah of reading a portion from the "new" Torah. Rabbi David Maxa, the young Rabbi of Ec Chajim, is reinvigorating Judaism in the Czech Republic, not only in his own community but in others also, making himself available to help in many ways. In the afternoon, Rabbi Maxa took us to Decin to meet the small community of less than 80 people where he hold a service in the beautiful synagogue which was built around 1900 and miraculously survived the Shoah despite being in the Sudetenland. A beautiful meal was prepared for us. Andrew, Sonja and I gave talks about our respective organisations.
Over the years, the MST has developed an excellent relationship with the Jewish Museum in Prague. On Wednesday morning I met with Dr Lenka Uicna who has and continues to help us at every opportunity. I then spent time with Dr Leo Pavlat, Director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, who has enabled our two organisations to work closely together. On Wednesday afternoon, Rabbi Maxa drove us to Liberec, formerly the second most important city in Bohemia. The beautiful new synagogue consecrated in 2000 is the only one to have been built in the Czech Republic since the war. Following another splendid meal prepared by the community we again gave talks and Rabbi Maxa conducted a service in the beautiful sanctuary.
We stayed in Liberec overnight, as we had been invited to attend the opening of the City of Liberec’s exhibition on visual antisemitism from the Middle Ages to the present along with the Israeli Ambassador. We drove back to Prague, just having time for a quick change of clothes before our final stop, a Q&A between Rabbi Maxa and myself held at the Maisel Synagogue (courtesy of the Jewish Museum). What a week!
Footnote: There are now fewer than 4,000 Jews in the Czech Republic, despite there being nearly 120,000 in 1939. The MST is proud that 1400 of our Czech scrolls loaned to communities around the world, each a living memorial, are connected to at least this number of people, honouring the Jews and Jewish life so tragically destroyed by the Nazis and their supporters.
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.
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
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 do the same with our scrolls in the Czech scroll museum.
We were honoured in 2019 for Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, to accept the personal loan of a kosher Czech Survivor Scroll