July 1, 2021
The Legacy Midtown Park became the proud host of a Memorial Trust Torah Scroll that had previously been rescued from the depredations of the Nazi Holocaust.
In July of 2021, The Legacy Midtown Park became the proud host of a Memorial Trust Torah Scroll that had previously been rescued from the depredations of the Nazi Holocaust. Our scroll comes from the town of Kolin in the Bohemian region of what is now the Czech Republic. This Torah scroll is approximately 250 years old, which makes the written parchment document a contemporary of the United States’ own Declaration of Independence. The Legacy scroll is No. 949 of 1,564 Czech Torah scrolls that were rescued and brought to England in 1964.
But it’s not just a scroll with a number. In 1941, all of the Jewish communities of Bohemia and Moravia were instructed to send their scrolls and other ritual items to a new Jewish museum in Nazi-occupied Prague for “safekeeping,” during the war that had begun to rage throughout Europe. The Jewish community of Kolin transferred its Torah scroll to this museum. The safekeeping was, in reality, for the recording and convenience of the murderous Nazi regime, which had no intention of keeping the Jewish communities of Czechoslovakia safe. Indeed, most of the Jewish population of these provinces was rounded up and deported to death camps by the first half of 1943, and most of the deported Jews did not survive.
In 1964, a member of the Czechoslovak government noticed that an abandoned synagogue in Prague still warehoused the Jewish ritual objects gathered under the Nazi regime. He made inquiries to see if he might sell them for hard currency. This led a philanthropist to step forward and purchase the entire lot of Torah scrolls and turn them over to a trust that was created for the purpose of administering the preservation of these treasures. The shipment of Torah scrolls was brought to the Westminster Synagogue in London. The scrolls have since been overseen by the Memorial Scrolls Trust. The Memorial Scrolls Trust has undertaken the placement of these Torahs, under its stewardship with synagogues and institutions in the Jewish world. About 150 scrolls remain with the Trust at Westminster.
The scroll that comes to us at The Legacy Midtown Park was located through the efforts of Sofer (Scribe) Rabbi Kevin Hale, of Massachusetts, who has worked extensively with the Trust and restored a number of these scrolls. Rabbi Hale directed Rabbi Michael Teyva Cohen of The Legacy Senior Communities to a synagogue in New Jersey, where a number of Memorial Scrolls were located and available for placement. Rabbi Hale had previously restored scroll No. 949 and seen it placed with a small synagogue in Queens, NY. Upon the closing of that synagogue, the scroll had come to be a guest in New Jersey. In April 2021, through the wonders of Facetime, Rabbi Hale reacquainted himself and examined scroll 949 in person, and enabled Rabbi Cohen to view it with him as well. This review provided assurance the scroll—a scroll of particularly lightweight, yet strong parchment and estimable vintage—could be made usable and kasher, with only the most minor of restorations. The Legacy then arranged with the Memorial Scrolls Trust, administered by Mr. Jeffrey Ohrenstein in London, for Rabbi Hale to take possession and perform those minor restorations he felt were appropriate and necessary.
Rabbi Hale delivered the restored scroll to us at The Legacy Midtown Park in July 2021. Under the guidance of Rabbi Hale, the community participated in a Siyyum, a completion of the restoration process, on July 9. This entailed adding the last few Hebrew letters to the parchment, using the scribal tools and ink. Rabbi Hale delighted in educating our community about the restoration process. The assembled residents and guests laughed and sang as we welcomed the scroll to its new home before Shabbat began.
Acquisition of two more Torah Scrolls together with the Memorial Scroll
On this same Shabbat, The Legacy Midtown Park community welcomed and acquired another Torah scroll restored by Rabbi Hale. This second scroll is a 100-year-old Torah previously used by a community in New Mexico. It was likely was created by a scribe in either Eastern Europe or among the recent immigrant communities that settled in America.
The Legacy Senior Communities rejoices in the placement of each of these Torahs in our community, offering thanks to the Ann and Nate Levine and Julie and Mike Weinberg families, who made the acquisition of these two scrolls possible. The Legacy also had the honor of receiving a Torah scroll, which was graciously donated to Midtown Park by the Roger Andres family. We delight in the regular use of our Torahs at our Shabbat and Festival worship services. The Legacy will also continue to use the Memorial Scroll for annual teaching opportunities, bringing the history of our people to life. L’Chaim!
To acquire the Memorial Trust Scroll, The Legacy Senior Communities made an initial donation to the Trust. We have also committed to making annual donations every year that we are in posession of Scroll No. 949, and to file a brief annual report with the Trust.
Learn more at Sofer Rabbi Kevin Hale’s website, assiyah.com.
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