Czech Memorial Scroll #974 from Pribram arrived at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in 1983.
It remains here on permanent loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust as part of the legacy to preserve these sacred scrolls and to memorialize the tragic loss of so many Jewish lives and communities in Bohemia and Moravia at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.
The Story of the Czech Memorial Scrolls
Jews had lived in Bohemia and Moravia for more than a thousand years. When the Germans invaded in 1939, congregations were closed down. The Nazis liquidated the communal and private Jewish property in the towns, instructing all Jewish communities to send the contents of their synagogues to the Jewish Museum in Prague.
In 1942, under the Nazis, the 100,000-strong Jewish community of Czechoslovakia collected and cataloged Jewish artifacts at the Jewish Museum in Prague.
After the war – with fewer than 8,000 Czechoslovakian Jews having survived – the scrolls in the collection were stored in a disused synagogue in the suburbs of Prague.
Following the Communist takeover in 1948, discussions were held with Israel with a view to selling the collection, but the negotiations dragged on. Eventually, Ralph Yablon, a member of Westminster Synagogue in London, was made aware of the existence and plight of the sacred Torah scrolls.
Yablon consequently paid the Czech Government a substantial sum to acquire the scrolls, which arrived in the UK on 8th February 1964. 1,564 scrolls, some dating back to the 17th century, came to London.
Yablon presented the scrolls to Westminster Synagogue which set about the huge task of restoring them. A special ‘scribe’ had to be employed, using very particular ink, parchment and processes to enable the scrolls to be made fit for synagogue use. Even then, some were beyond repair and these approximately 100 scrolls have became the nucleus of the Scrolls Museum, housed at Westminster Synagogue.
The vast majority, however, have been sent to communities around the world, so as to give them a second life as the focus of education, interfaith understanding and action for a new generation.
Each Memorial Scroll is a messenger from a community that was lost, but does not deserve to be forgotten.
For more information on the Memorial Scrolls Trust please visit www.memorialscrollstrust.org