KI is the custodian of one of the Czech Holocaust Torah scrolls which is on loan from the Westminster Memorial Scrolls Trust in England. The Torah was sent to us by air from the Scrolls Trust in England on September 24, 1973.
We learned from the Scrolls Trust that they believed the scroll to have been written in 1840. There is a label on the back of a panel that shows that the scroll had been in Moses Hirschler’s bookstore in Wien (Vienna) at some point in its history. Moses Hirschler lived from 1810–1896. We located a descendant of his who is an expert on scrolls in his own right who suggested that the Torah may actually have been in Hirschler’s bookstore for repairs (in 1840?), and may have been 40 or 50 years old at the time.
Our Czech Torah, which was removed from a synagogue in Německý Brod during the Holocaust, has an amazing power to capture the imagination. When it is unrolled one can see that the calligraphy is unusual. There is something about the shapes of the letters; the proportions of the tagin, the little crowns that are on top of certain letters; and the line spacing that make it inviting to read. Apparently, according to one expert we consulted, some of the letters that are atypically written large were ones that were characteristic of “kabbalistic scrolls.” Learning this made us want to learn more about the Torah, the scribe who penned it, and the community that used it.
So even before its journeys from Německý Brod to the basement of a synagogue in Prague, to the Westminster Memorial Scrolls Trust in London, to Kehillat Israel in Michigan, this scroll has had a long life and was read from by many generations. It would have been a very sad day that it had to be left behind by its last owners in Německý Brod. We are honored to house it in our synagague, and researching its past has led to us learning about the Jewish community of Německý Brod during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We have posted the results of our research in a blog about the Torah, which can be found here: http://kehillatisrael.blogspot.com.
Donations in support of the repair of the scroll are always welcome. If you choose to assist in this worthwhile project in honor of the memory of those who were killed in the Holocaust, you can designate your contribution for the Czech Torah. Thank you to all who contribute.