Stories that connect us - From Pacov to Prague, from Milton Keynes to Finchley , The Album of David Friedmann, video conversations, more visitors from everywhere, and plans for our 60th anniversary "60 in '24"
MST Newsletter December 2022
Scroll Holder Community Visits to Czechia
Welcome to our 28th newsletter.
Milton Keynes to Pacov
A group from several communities as well as descendants of Pacov Jews visited this small town in Bohemia with a population of less than 5000. Members of the Milton Keynes & District Synagogue in England brought their Torah scrolls MST#970 that had been sent from the town to Prague in 1942.
The synagogue building was completed by 1823 and together with the Rabbi's house used by the community till they were deported and murdered by the Nazis. Of the 110 deported Jews only 7 survived. Our thanks to Pavel Tychtl, Karen Koblitz, Michal Arend as well as many others from Pacov and overseas for creating the non-profit Tikkun Pacov, buying the building and undertaking the restoration. They arranged a meaningful and moving weekend, that included films, talks with a survivor and survivors' children and a children's choir. Rabbi David Maxa came from Prague to conduct the service.
West London to Prague
Rabbi David Mitchell led a large group of congregants of West London Synagogue on a visit to Prague. West London Synagogue cares for Torah MST#310, known as an Orphan scroll, from an unknown town in Bohemia and Moravia. They participate in our Czech Torah webpage project with https://www.wls.org.uk/czech-scroll. Synagogue members were welcomed By Rabbi David Maxa to Ec Chajm, one of our newest scroll holder
60th anniversary events
Over 12 communities are discussing plans with MST Volunteer Representatives for holding Scroll Gatherings for their regions across the world.
The first Scroll Gathering was in 1965, at Westminster Synagogue, when representatives of all British Jewish Communities gathered to daven at Westminster Synagogue, Kent House. Chief Rabbi Israel Brody led the congregation in saying Kaddish for all who had died in the Czech Holocaust.
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.
Milton Keynes & District District Reform Synagogue in Pacov
Rabbi David Mitchell of West London Synagogue with Rabbi David Maxa at Ec Chajm, Prague. Photo Courtesy: Pavel Toepfer
The Album of David Friedmann
“These were powerful images I saw – to give form to all that misery – to show it to the world – this was always my intent”. The artist David Friedmann produced hundreds of portraits during the time of the Nazi occupation in Prague. Surviving are only ninety-four portraits of members of the Prague Jewish Community from the years 1940-1941. Yet numerous subjects depicted in these artworks remain unidentified to this day. Can you help solve this mystery? Read More here
His signature says Dr Hermann, but the project cannot identify him
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.
"Taxidermied Jews?" History, Present, and Future of Jewish Museums
MST is pleased to continue loaning two Czech Survivor Torah Binder cloths to an exhibition in Austria at The Jewish Museum of Hohenems.This exhibition will then transfer to the Japanese Palace in Dresden, Germany, until the end of 2023.
June, 2022 until April, 2023 in Austria, then May to December in Dresden, Germany
There are over 120 Jewish museums worldwide. However, even the definition of their designating adjective is by no means uniform. There are those to whom the institution itself is a Jewish one, to others the institution’s topic is Judaism – from the most diverse perspectives. For some, the adjective “Jewish” is unambiguous, for others, it is not just ambiguous but even full of contradictions. The question of definitions and perspectives are decisive for content and practices of museums – and thus also on the sovereignty of interpretation of what is “Jewish” in a social public sphere. The exhibition illuminates the history and present of the institution “Jewish Museum,” its collections and its canon – and thus reflects the urgent question of its role in society in the future.
An exhibition of the Jewish Museum Hohenems, in cooperation with the Saxon State Collections of Ethnography Leipzig, Dresden, and Herrnhut.
Stories from the lives of Scroll Holder Communities
Finchley Reform Synagogue, London
Peter Barber represented MST at the Scroll Gatherings service in the beautiful new synagogue building of Finchley Reform, London, UK. He writes: There were Czech scrolls from other synagogues in North London and Essex. I found it moving and dignified and particularly liked the way in which the representatives of each synagogue not only paraded their scrolls round the room but also talked about the communities from which they came: the people involved had not only done a lot of research but had also got involved with the present-day inhabitants and particularly the schools (leading in at least one case to the publication of a book on the former Jewish community researched by today’s students). What particularly impressed me was that the Finchley Reform Members had done a lot of work on the individuals in ’their’ Scroll Origin community who had been sent to Terezin and beyond and at the end of the service shortly before the Kaddish was recited, I and nine others were called to the front to read from cards which gave not simply the names of the people, but details about them: what their jobs were, when they were born and transported etc:, very much bringing them posthumously to live and creating a virtual minyan, in the process.
Hollace Weiner writes to tell us of the passing aged 91 of Libuse Votavova. She witnessed the kidnapping and deportation of Jewish school friends, and made it her life's work to remember the Jews of Uhrineves, her home town.. Hollace is archivist of Beth-El Temple TX, a holder of an MST Sefer torah from this Czech town. Twenty years ago Libuse gave Hollace and her husband a tour of the synagogue building. Libuse was also in contact with Finchley Reform Synagogue in London, UK.
Westminster Synagogue visits MST Czech Scrolls Museum up the stairs in Kent House
Our two Czech MST Torah scrolls at the Westminster Synagogue, London, are MST#178 from Prestice and MST#931 that since 1964 was believed to have been from Horeazdovice. Over the years WS Members made several trips made to the towns, and Stolpersteine have been laid in memory of the Jews of the town. In 1850 there had been some 500 communities in Bohemia and Moravia however as communities closed the origin of our scrolls is rarely known for sure.They were shipped to Prague during the Shoah from 118 towns where they were collected, and we recorded these towns as being the provenance when the scrolls came to London in 1964. Three years ago, at our request, a previously unresearched file at the Jewish Museum Prague gave us some additional information; for example 11 scrolls with a Domazlice provenance we discovered were sent from Stankov when the communities merged in 1931. From this file we learned that MST#931 was shipped to Prague from Horovice, not Horazdovice. This was not an earlier provenance but a typo made by those cataloguing under extreme pressure during the Shoah. As a result the Westminster Synagogue's annual memorial service now remembers the Jews and Jewish life destroyed in the Shoah, giving the names of murdered Jews from all three towns.
Before the service this year, there was a very interesting and moving talk by Arianna Neumann, who talked about the remarkable way her late father managed to survive the war in Prague and then Berlin, masquerading as a non-Jew. Her book "When Time Stopped" is available from our e.shop https://mstshop.org/
Before the service a WS Members group came up the stairs to the MST Museum to learn more about the history of the Czech Jews and their scrolls that survived the Shoah
Visit the MST Czech Scrolls Museum
The 1000 Abrahamic Circles Programme is a project housed under the FPCI (Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia - founded by Dino Patti Djalal, former Indonesian Ambassador to the USA). We were delighted to welcome Rabbi Jeff Berger and his colleagues from the Islamic and Christian communities; Imam Alaa Elzokm from Melbourne Australia and Rev DWI Argo Mursito from Pekalongang, Indonesia to visit the MST's Czech Scrolls Museum to see our collection of Torah scrolls and wimples, as well as hear the story of how they survived the Shoah. 1000 Abrahamic Circles Project is an independent and grassroots, international interfaith peace effort that aims to bring together Abrahamic faith leaders from three different countries on a journey to each other’s community. It is headquartered in Indonesia, one of the world's most ethnoreligious diverse but conflict-prone countries. For each Circle, they bring together a Jewish, a Muslim, and a Christian faith leader from a wide range of differing worldviews to spend a week in each of their communities, directly observing each other’s way of life--ultimately building an understanding and mutual respect between one another. The program is designed to obtain a positive and long-term impact, serving as an innovative solution to the traditional interfaith models. The ultimate objective is to measurably increase religious literacy, empathy, and a sense of mutual respect amongst the Circle members, their followers, and the wider global general public. Abraham’s Legacy will be the first Eco-Circle, and the fifth circle of the 1000 Abrahamic Circles Project, focusing on the theme of eco-theology in Abrahamic Religious teachings. They believe that the problem of climate change should be addressed by everyone, including the religious community. In some areas, religious teachings are easier to be understood and adhered to compared with scientific approaches. This circle will highlight the spirit of environmentalism in the Abrahamic Religious community.
We invite you to visit the MST 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 Singer Family, New York
Interested to learn more about the history of the Czech scrolls, Mrs Valerie Mirvis visited us with a friend, Judge Eva Mayer who was born in Prague. After moving to Israel, Eva Mayer subsequently came to London where she has worked as a Barrister and Judge in Family Law. Rabbitzin Mirvis is a senior social worker, involved in child protection, and lectures on healthcare protection.
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
Bohemian Jews were allowed to publish books in the early part of the Nineteenth century, even whilst they lived in the Ghetto in Prague. This book, printed in Hebrew and German, shows the mark of the King's Censor, a Hebrew translator authorised by the State to assure that such books did not promote sedition.
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
IBAN GB28NWBK60040486880594 BIC: NWBKGB2L
USD $ Bank Account
Sort code 60-04-04 Currency 140 Type 00 Account 87579650 [140/00/87579650]