A Torah scroll that survived the Holocaust in Czechoslovakia was given new life on Yom Hashoa by Temple Beth El of Somerset.
Under the direction of scribe Rabbi Daniel Wizodsky of White Plains, NY, members of the Conservative synagogue on April 27 were called to inscribe a letter, word, or passage for which they had made a donation, as part of repair work making the scroll once again kosher.
The program followed a talk by Holocaust survivor Erwin Ganz, whose family escaped on the last boat to leave Germany with refugees following Kristallnacht.
The restored scroll will be dedicated on Saturday, May 31, during Shabbat services. It will be escorted by congregants who are survivors and by the children of survivors.
The scroll, which has been at Beth El for more than 15 years, is part of the Memorial Scrolls Trust from the Westminster Synagogue in London, which received about 1,600 scrolls in 1964. The scrolls had been taken from synagogues, many of which were destroyed in the Holocaust, and brought to Prague, where the Nazis planned to place them along with other Jewish artifacts in a museum. The trust fund gives out the scrolls on permanent loan to Jewish institutions throughout the world.
“Our scribe said this was one of the few Czech Torah scrolls that can be used because it was less damaged,” said Beth El’s Rabbi Eli Garfinkel. “In many cases these Torahs are so damaged they are put in glass cases on display.”
He said when the scroll first came to Beth El it was kosher, but over the next several years it became pasul [unkosher] after letters flaked off.
“We took it out of service because we had three others,” said Garfinkel. “Now we are ready to put it back in service.”
Fund-raising efforts for the restoration began about a year ago and repair work by Wizodsky began four months before April 27.
“It was very meaningful to participate in the restoration of something so sacred,” said Barbara Strudler of Somerset. “I never thought I’d see one of these up close, let alone participate in its restoration.”
Congregation president Lee Rudbart told NJJN, “I consider this a celebration because we’re still here doing our thing and passing on this Torah from generation to generation.”