Stories that connect us- from zoom talks, to visitors from everywhere, and plans for our 60th anniversary "60 in '24"
60 in '24
MST Newsletter January 2022 - Shana Tovah again
60th anniversary of the Czech Scrolls arriving in London
Welcome to the 22nd edition of our Newsletter.
Every week, tens of thousands of people listen to a Czech Torah Scroll being read. Over a thousand communities around the world are remembering the yahrzeit of those who died in the Czech lands during the Shoah. The MST celebrates Jewish life in central Europe, and all because a chance request in Prague that resulted in 1564 scrolls being saved from rotting away in a damp warehouse.
60 in '24
In February 2024 we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Czech Scrolls arriving in London. We invite you in joining with us in a series of celebratory services and events we are planning to take place around the world, starting on Simchat Torah, 2023. You and your community will have a chance to bring out your Scroll and dance with joy.
Your Czech Torah scroll is very special and at least 100 years old. Please consider sponsoring an MST sofer to visit and maintain your scroll so it is ready for the 60th anniversary celebrations.
Can your community host a Scroll Gathering service for your region? We have had gatherings from 20 to 74 Czech Scrolls participating. I hope to be able to join several communities during the celebratory year.
Celebrate with your Czech Torah Scroll
Let us know of your Scroll celebration plans. We'll help publicise and offer you resource materials.
Visit the Scrolls
Scroll #1540 in Berlin, then Hereford
Torah scroll MST#1540 was carbon dated to the second half of the 13th century CE. It is now with a specialist conservator, who has stabilised the parchment and enabled more columns to be unrolled. We are planning for the scroll to be part of a museum exhibition in Hereford, UK, May 2022. This scroll is being studied by an international group of experts in Jewish paleography, in the materials of parchment and ink, as well as Sofrim. In order to learn as much as we can about this scroll we agreed for it to be taken to Berlin, Germany, for three days of non-invasive but intensive study. We await their final report, but they have been able to tell us that the ink is iron gall based (as all good Torah scrolls are), and that there appears to have been two layers of writing, which may be explained by the scroll having gone to a sofer for repair at some point in its life. Scroll #1540 is not giving up its secrets just yet!
The Czech Scrolls Museum
We invite you to visit the Czech Scrolls Museum for a guided tour, however you need to book your visit in advance.
Cheder and b'nai mitsvah group visits.
Individuals and families.
During Lockdown an anonymous donation allowed us to replace the Museum lighting system, which had failed just at the start of Covid lockdown. Our thanks to them for giving us new Lights in time for Chanukah.
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.
Live streaming via https://www.facebook.com/EcChajim
Eva Erben's book is available through the MST shop - see link below.
In the Ark of the sanctuary at Midtown Park we house a Torah (MST#949) that survived the Holocaust. This morning, my colleague Rabbi Holly Cohn read from this venerable scroll, and we will have the opportunity to visit and see it this fall. The scripture of our people, blesses our efforts to create a thriving Jewish senior community here in Dallas. Not so long ago, this and over fifteen hundred other scrolls were gathered from the Jewish Communities of Czecheslovakia. The communities sent their Torah scrolls and other ritual items to a Central Jewish Museum in Prague that offered dubious safety for their treasures in the face of Nazi occupation and the future they faced in 1942. These communities of our brethren were liquidated not long after this.
The treasures placed in that museum survived the Jews, were removed to a warehouse where they sat for 20 years. During the Soviet era in the early 60’s, someone working for the Czech government tried to sell them for western currency. A philanthropist purchased the Torahs and donated them to a group in London who created the Memorial Scrolls Trust. It’s that Trust to which we owe thanks for the redemption of these treasures and placing them with Legacy and other Jewish communities throughout the world.
When our Scholar in Residence, Rabbi Kevin Hale came in July, he brought with him one of these Scrolls which he had restored for us, and he also brought a recent book of photographs by Sheila Pallay of many of the communities in Czechoslovakia from which the Scrolls come. I invite you to look at these photographs in the book at the back of our sanctuary where it will remain for the coming months.
Most of these Jewish communities of Bohemia and Moravia are no more. But some of the buildings have been restored. Many are beautifully portrayed in Pallay’s pictures. There are glorious buildings, like the restored Great Synagogue of Plzen, with its two spires topped with onion domes. In Ceske Budejovice, Pallay photographed a beautiful park with a pond right across from the former synagogue, where families could have taken Shabbos strolls. The sanctuary of the Synagogue of Jicin, restored in 2008, has sky blue walls set off with white gold trimmed arches, and windows adorned with stained glass stars of David.
Pallay’s photographs beckon us to imagine we might have been part of those kehillot had we lived in that time and place. I imagine children running to and from Synagogue in Rakovnik, playing on the cobblestone streets that surround it. These photographs link us to the world of Jewish souls destroyed in the Holocaust, to generations of Jews before us.
In Libochovice, an impressive Beit Din Rabbinical Court before a towering Weeping Willow is reflected in what’s known as the “Jewish Pond”. The restored interior of the Hartmanice Synagogue, now a Museum, boasts gorgeous wooden roof beams and an interior balcony painted sky blue. These pictures convey the love and care of our people, who once made their homes in these places. The photographs Sheilah Pallay created for us tell us of that world, from which our Torah comes.
This ability to visualize the communities of Bohemia and Moravia, is in some ways like bringing our own loved ones we have lost, to our minds on this Yizkor. Remembering these souls who have passed from our lives, gives more meaning to those lives, and in turn, to our own. Yizkor, this service of remembrance, invites us to stop and consider those who paved the way for us, who illuminated our lives and impressed upon us the kind of people that we have becomeand are still becoming. Yizkor, invites us to think back upon the moments that are treasures in our own lives. Yizkor invites us to feel the connections that bind us across the generations, to realize that we could not be the people we are, but for the hands and hearts and minds that nurtured us along the way.
Photographs and memories have the power to transport us. Our hearts and minds can be opened to moments we shared with loved ones in our past. And that can be a scary thing, for many folks. Better to not open up too much, one may say, lest the feelings overwhelm us. But Yizkor is precisely an invitation to our deepest feelings, to return to and pursue some of our work of grief.
‘Why would I want to return to grief ?’, you may ask. Getting caught up in those feelings is the last thing you may want to do. There may be so much feeling, and it may be complex. Grief is like an untapped reservoir in our midst. And it can be scary. But knowing that we do this together, can offer important support to each individual in our community.
My sense, from years of working with grief as a chaplain, is that this reservoir is there for a purpose, and Jewish tradition brilliantly invites us to visit this place throughout each year, for a reason. Grief is one of, if not the main drivers of human maturity. Grief is the process by which we humans absorb and make emotional sense of who we have been, in relation to each person whom we grieve, because we humans define ourselves in context with the others in our lives. Therefore, the change of season when a loved one passes, whether it’s a parent, a spouse or even a child, upsets our definitions, upsets our landscape, disrupts the ground around this reservoir upon which we stand.
We have to reorient, to a world without our loved one. And it’s not uncommon for us to do just enough of this reorientation to find a new footing, and then carry on. But grief remains, and invites us to go further, to explore who we are, and go deeper into encounter with what matters most to us in this world, and how we can live each moment in a way most authentic to our true selves.
In that sense, our rendez-vous with the divine at Yom Kippur, and the theological concept of Teshuva - return to our self, fits with Yizkor like hand and glove. All of these concepts are working together to invite us to encounter our deepest self, to return to the soul work that is always there for us to revisit.
Grief work cannot be done in a day and cannot be completed on a schedule. The re-occurence of Yizkor dates in our calendar serve as markers, invitations to us to permit ourselves to return to doing this soul-work.
Psalm 30 tells us: “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning.” This verse reassures us that we can look for the strength to face grief, if only we know that joy will return to us as well. The wisdom written in this Psalm is that there is no grief, without love. The challenge to each of us is, that the reverse holds true as well. There is no love, without grief. Just as these survivor Torah Scrolls each give life, meaning and joy again to communities like our own, so too, know that God, time, and love can heal our wounds. Let grief into our life, and life will again come into us, amidst our grief. It’s not that our grief disappears. But rather, life begins again, finds a way, and invites us to join it, even with our grief during our time in this world.
As we enter this time of remembrance, I invite you to open the doors of memory, let yourself encounter the grief and love within, and know that I too, am here to visit and talk with you in the coming weeks or months, whenever you are ready, and want some company on this part of our human journey. May you each be comforted by God’s love, and that of all those dear ones in your lives on this Yom Kippur, and on each of the days of your lives.
Yizkor - Sermon for Yom Kippur- 5782 Sept. 16 2021 Rabbi Michael Tevya Cohen Legacy Senior Communities
On 26/01/22 from 7-8pm, Barnet Libraries, London UK, present with Generation 2 Generation: An ONLINE evening with Francis Morton discussing the story of his Czechoslovakian Holocaust survivor parents George and Renée, including a 20mins Q&A session. FREE tickets at
Francis's parents lived in Czechoslovakia before World War 2 but came to England as Jewish refugees. His mother came to England in 1938 on a domestic service visa to undertake housework and childcare for a family in Cambridge, while his father escaped from Czechoslovakia in 1940, illegally entering Palestine and then being interned on Mauritius by the British, before coming to the UK in 1942 as an RAF volunteer.
Francis uncovered their stories after finding some 500 letters written by family and friends during this period, and his talk also covers the fate of those family members unable to escape from occupied Europe.
The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, as part of Holocaust & Genocide Awareness Week, invite you to the Czech Torah scroll (MST#797) dedication, to be held on Sunday, January 23 at 2:00pm EST.
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
Special Scroll Characters
The Memorial Scrolls Trust's collection of Torah scrolls is one of the largest in the world, and the largest from one country. Our scrolls are written in many styles over a period of hundreds of years and have many idiosyncrasies in their styles of writing.
Lamed is the 12th letter in the Hebrew alphabet and plays an important part in the Torah. It is the tallest letter, so rises above the baseline when written. In the middle of the alphabet, it is considered the heart and is called melech hamelachim - King of Kings.
Lamed has the numeric value of 30, but from a gematriac standpoint the two parts of the letter, Vav and Kaf have a total of 26, the same as the Hebrew letters Y H V H written for God's Name.
On rare occasions you will find some Torah have the Lamed written inverted. One such Torah, MST#1427 from Kyjov is in our Memorial Scrolls Trust Museum. Deuteronomy 23:21 is about usury: 'You shall not charge interest to your brother, whether it be interest on money, interest on food or interest on any other item for which interest is normally taken. You may however, give interest to a gentile, but to your brother you shall not charge interest".