Stories that connect us - Invite MST to your schools, Ostrava stories, new scroll allocations, our meetings in London, Prague & Israel in May 22, our Scroll visits Hereford, more visitors from everywhere, and plans for our 60th anniversary "60 in '24"
MST Newsletter June 2022
The MST Torah Scrolls Schools Outreach
Welcome to our 25th newsletter.
MST is honoured to have allocated Czech Holocaust Survivor scrolls MST#208 into the care of Congregation Shaarei Kodesh in Boca Raton FL and MST#539 to the Staten Island Holocaust Centre NY.
Scrolls Schools Outreach
Despite two world wars and many years of Nazism and Communism, with millions murdered for no other reason than they were Jewish, racism and fanaticism continues in many different forms and needs to be confronted.
The Memorial Scrolls Trust believes that by telling our story we help, even if in a modest way. We are non-denominational and welcome visitors of all faiths to our museum where they learn about the Jewish experience in the Czech lands over the centuries and see 150 scrolls that are all that is left of many old and vibrant communities.
We welcome school visits, but these are often difficult to arrange due to the time required out of a school day.
At the end of April we tried out a new idea. Thanks to an invitation from Ms Taryn Lombard, the Headmistress of Cavendish School in Camden, London, I took a small Torah to the school and gave a talk to a group of their students It was an amazing experience with the girls showing considerable interest in our story and the scroll, as well as asking a great number of searching questions.
During Covid, we have reflected on our own experience of bringing school groups to our museum. We spoke with other small museums and galleries. We are now planning to visit other schools, initially in London and are looking for a someone to help us, who will also take one of our scrolls to show them.. Please consider your own situation and if possible arrange visits to your local schools.
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.
PPS Our congratulations to MST Trustee Lois Roman on being awarded an MA for her thesis "A practical guide to leading Holocaust Museums and Centers" from Yeshiva University NYC.
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 previously had gatherings with from 20 to 74 Czech Scrolls participating.
Celebrate with your Czech Torah Scroll
Let us know of your Scroll celebration plans. We'll help publicise and offer you resource materials.
Your Czech Sefer Torah, a survivor and silent witness of the Shoah, commemorates the murder of Jews and destruction of Jewish life during the Shoah. You are offering the chance to celebrate the survival and return of Jewish life in Central Europe. We are united in our timeless love of Torah.
Czech Republic and Israel in May 2022
We have just returned from the Czech Republic and from Israel, having brought MST Scroll #565, once used by the Jewish community of Olomouc, a Czech Memorial Scroll, from London, for a double presentation to Beit Theresenstadt Educational Institute. The Czech Republic marks the liberation of Terezin Ghetto with a national ceremony on the 3rd Sunday of May every year. MST was honoured to attend the Czech national event, alongside Beit Theresenstadt, B'nai Brith, Ec Chajm synagogue, and March of the Living. This Czech scroll was carried by descendants of Terezin Ghetto Survivors from the railway station to the Old Fortress. The first formal presentation of MST #565 was made at the Terezin Crematorium to representatives of Beit Theresenstadt. We said Kaddish, remembering the mission statement of March of the Living “Connected to our past and with a responsibility for our future.” We then travelled with the scroll to Israel, to attend Beit Theresenstadt’s AGM, to make our second presentation.
We thank our friends in Beit Theresenstadt, B’nai Brith, March of the Living, Jewish Museum Prague, the Prague Federation of Jewish Communities, and Ec Chajm Synagogue for facilitating such an astounding series of guided tours, meals and events for the over 30 people who travelled from Israel, the USA and the UK. A particular thanks to Yaakov Ben-Ze’ev and Tami Kinberg, our madrichim.
The Holocaust Chanukiah
On 14th March 1939, the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia, just less than 6 months after they had signed the Munich Agreement. By the middle of June, all the synagogues in Ostrava had been burnt down and destroyed.
Isidor Reiser managed to rescue a Chanukiah from the ruins of the main synagogue
Isidor was a master glazier with his business in the main square in Ostrava. He and his wife, Alžběta, had two children: Leo and Emilie, known as Lilly. Isidor and Leo were deported to Nisko nad Sanem in October 1939 and, after their return, the whole family were deported to Theresienstadt where Isidor and Alžběta managed to survive until the end of the war. Lilly was transported to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen and also survived to rejoin the family. Leo was sent to Flossenberg but returned to join his parents in Theresienstadt where all three of them were liberated by the Russians. In 1945 Lilly emigrated to the USA while, in 1949, the rest of the family went on Aliyah.
According to Lilly’s story, her father rescued the Chanukiah from the ruins of the burnt-out synagogue. It was hidden when the family were deported but collected once again at the end of the war and taken to Israel. Her parents and brother died in Israel, leaving her as the sole remaining member of the family and took the Chanukiah with her back to the USA.
In 2008, Lilly Reiser sent me a photograph of herself holding the Chanukiah which is naturally of great emotional significance for her. She said that she would bequeath it to me and happily Lilly managed to send it to me shortly before she died in April 2020 just before her 96th birthday.
A quick glance at the photograph shows the chanukiah has the usual 8 cups but apparently no shamash and is decorated with the double Austro-Hungarian crown suggesting that it dates from before 1918.
When the chanukiah arrived in 2020, I was able to examine it more closely and found a 2mm high maker’s mark. As well as claw feet, the Chanukiah has a ring on the back to hang it on a wall.
Jaroslav Kuntoš of the Jewish Museum in Prague said this about it. He said:
The shape of the cups/lamps and of the depression for the residue indicate that the candelabrum was constructed to be used with oil. However, the lids with a pipe for the wick are missing on the cups, therefore the candelabrum could not be used with oil in its current condition. The lids are small and usually get lost easily (even many of the chanukiahs in our collections have missing lids) and the candelabrum then had to be used with candles instead. This is also the case with your chanukiah, as the wax residue on the cups suggest.
Since the last third of the 19th century this type of Chanukiah (candelabrum) has been offered by almost every major manufacturer of pressed metal goods in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Their history and ways of marking are still not completely processed, manufacturers have worked throughout the whole territory of the then monarchy, so accurate identification of the manufacturer is not possible. In the collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague we have the same candelabrum (actually silver plated) with the same markings, which we have identified in terms of time and place of origin to the last quarter of the 19th century with a widespread location of Austria-Hungary (ID 012.539). It is interesting that it comes from the same collection location - Moravian Ostrava, which could narrow the circle to Moravia or Austrian Silesia or Poland, but this is only a hypothesis, it could well be some large-scale import of goods from, say, the territory of Galicia.
Dr Pavlát, the Director of the Museum, arranged for me to receive photographs of their Chanukiah. You can see that the plate has worn off in many places, that one of the cups has lost its lid and that there is a separate shamashwith a holder welded to the back of the chanukiah.
The solder used in such cases is a low melting pewter. It would certainly have melted in the fire, so for Lilly’s chanukiah, the shamash would fall off as would all the lids.
It is a Chanukiah that has literally been through the fire of The Holocaust. It was presented to the City Museum in Ostrava on 9th May, ten days after the anniversary of Lilly’ death in 2020, as a permanent memorial to her, her family and all the Jews of Ostrava murdered in The Holocaust.
Radan Salomonovic, a member of the Ostrava Jewish community, handing the Holocaust Hannukiah over to the Director of the Ostrava Museum, Jirína Kabrtová
MST suggests that you visit the following exhibition, to which we have loaned Sefer Torah Scroll MST#1540. We thank Peter Barber, our Trustee and also a Trustee of the body which looks after the Hereford Mappa Mundi medieval world map.
"Throughout history, human beings have covered their tribalism and fear of the unknown with stereotypical and distorted misinterpretation of those who appear different to themselves, the ‘Other’. It is vital to recognise this and counteract it.
‘Strangers’ looks at the situation from the viewpoint of both sides, displaying a wide range of books and documents from the cathedral’s collections relating to different peoples, places and periods. The exhibits include the Hereford Mappa Mundi, itself a medieval iteration of the problem, and Magna Carta in the context of its imperialist uses. There are images of important works from other collections and, in the Chained Library, a rare medieval Torah scroll (MST#1540), loaned by the Memorial Scrolls Trust, pays witness to the tragedy of European Jewry.
Some of the images and attitudes shown are shocking, but reflect the mentalities and realities of their day, including our own. We do not condone them, but seek to understand and challenge them. The exhibition ends on a hopeful note – the acceptance of difference and understanding of our commonality as human beings unites us.
In association with the exhibition, four talks held at the cathedral look at the problem in its historical context and present ideas about how we can promote tolerance and understanding."
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.
We do not charge for your visit - any donation offered goes to our Czech Scrolls Maintenance & Repair Fund.
MST welcomed the Zall Family, members of MST scroll holder community Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation, CT, MST#752 & MST#1412
Stories from the lives of Scroll Holder Communities
Moravske Budejovice is a small town in what was once the southern part of Moravia, now the Czech Republic. The photograph below is of a plaque marking the site where the synagogue once stood in the town. Jews had lived here since the 14th century, but the community was expelled in 1564 and there were no Jews in the town again until 1774.
The picture is of the Plaque marking the site where the synagogue once stood in the town
By 1930 there were 77 Jews in the town, representing 1.8% of the population. In 1942, those Jews remaining after the Nazi occupation were deported to extermination camps. No community was established after the war.
Temple Beth Shalom, Santa Fe, NM, Holocaust Torah MST#426 is on permanent loan from the London-based charity Memorial Scrolls Trust. Imagine former TBS’ Rabbi, Marvin Schwab’s horror when, following a roof leak over the Bima, our TBS Holocaust Torah was drenched and waterlogged. To quickly “save” the Torah, Rabbi Schwab unrolled it to its full length. It took days to dry out. The parchment survived but needed to be “re-hydrated,” a process that cost approximately $25,000.
It quickly became apparent many of the letters had faded beyond recognition. For the Torah to regain its kosher status, a professional Sofer, Rabbi Moshe Druin and his unique organization, Sofer on Site were asked to restore our TBS Holocaust Torah to its pre-deluge condition. Sofer Druin was able to involve every member of the community in writing a letter to complete the repair of this scroll, the Mitsvah of writing a Torah scroll. See the TBS Holocaust Torah Restoration Project at https://youtu.be/5jq7ubIwDdM.
MST was pleased to allocate a scroll to Congregação Israelite Capixaba, Brazil. They, very kindly, invited us to the Hachnassat later in June. Our thanks to student rabbi Andrea Kulikovsky for collecting this scroll from us in London, and to Andrew Keene, WUPJ, for putting us in touch.
We hope to visit the South and North American Scroll Holder Communities in 2023 and 2024 as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations.
Czech Scrolls Education
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
Our congratulations to HM Queen Elizabeth II on her Platinum Anniversary.
Our thanks to Chief Rabbi Mirvis for his interest and support of the Memorial Scrolls Trust. Our 200 year old Czech Torah scrolls MST#160 from the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague was presented to Her Majesty the Queen in 1981.
Rabbi Mirvis was shown Torah Scroll MST#160 by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on a visit to Windsor Castle - read his story here .
Read here about how Westminster Synagogue gave this Torah Scroll to Queen Elizabeth in 1981.
Roll your 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
When a Memorial Torah Scroll is entrusted to a congregation on long term loan, it is on the understanding that the congregation makes a long term commitment to give this Sefer Torah a prominent and meaningful role in the spiritual and educational life of the congregation. This requires the rabbi and the leaders of the congregation to pledge to dedicate one Shabbat every year to the Jews of their Memorial Torah Scroll – the people, their community, their fate and their heritage. Each Scroll is a messenger from a martyred community that depends on its new community to ensure that their heritage is cherished as well as their remembrance as individuals.
The Torah Scroll is the property of the Memorial Scrolls Trust.
The Torah Scroll is issued exclusively to a designated congregation or institution (“the Recipient”) on long term loan.
The Recipient will pay to the Trust an initial donation of $5000
New Recipients shall make an annual donation to the Trust of $360.
The Recipients website should have a page or an article about their Czech Torah and its history, as well as the Memorial Scrolls Trust and the Czech Scrolls Museum. The website should also have a link to the MST website www.memorialscrollstrust.org
Recipients who are synagogues, shall have an annual commemorative service dedicated to the Jews of the Memorial Scroll town.
The Recipient must provide the Trust with a written report a minimum of once every 5 years. This will give an update of the physical condition of the scroll and share highlights of the role it plays in the community.
The Torah Scroll may not be transferred to any other organisation, and must be returned to the Trust in the event of the closure or merger of the designated organisation.
Where a Torah Scroll has been loaned to a museum, it should be placed on display. If it is kept in storage for a period of more than 2 months, it should be returned to the Trust.
The Recipient is responsible for the safekeeping of the Scroll, and for its condition.
The Recipient must arrange and pay for any repairs or restoration that may be necessary while the Scroll is in their care.
Before any repair or restoration work may be undertaken on the Scroll, advance notice must be given and permission needs to be granted by the Trust. The specified work must be undertaken only by or under the close supervision of a nominated certified scribe approved by the Trust.
Where the Etz Chayim are replaced, the MST brass plaque with the Scroll’s identification number must be preserved and reaffixed
Under no circumstances whatsoever may the Torah Scroll be buried.
The certificate of origin that comes with the Torah Scroll must be framed and displayed in a prominent position near the Scroll. If the certificate cannot be found, then the Recipient must contact the Trust to arrange and pay for a replacement.
The Recipient must maintain adequate insurance against normal risks, and the Trust’s ownership of the Torah Scroll must be endorsed on the insurance policy. Each Torah Scroll to be insured for $25,000.
The Torah Scroll may not be unrolled in its entirety for any reason except that which pertains to its upkeep.
UK £ Sterling Bank Account
Sort Code 60-04-04 Account 86880594
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Sort code 60-04-04 Currency 140 Type 00 Account 87579650 [140/00/87579650]