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Rescued Czech Torah Scrolls

4 February 2024

We could not have been more proud on Sunday when we attended this event in Knightsbridge with Sammy, Nadav, Zachery, Ella and Elinor of Oranim. The story of the rescue of 1,564 Czech Scrolls by Ralph Yablon, who donated them to the Westminster Synagogue in February 1964, has passed into history as a small but remarkable episode in the history of European Jewry. As an intimate link with individual congregations that were destroyed by the Nazis, the rescued scrolls are a symbol of sorrow, but also of hope, as they are read and used by communities, museums and educational establishments around the world. Over six decades the racks of the Memorial Scrolls Trust Museum have grown emptier as one scroll after another has been returned to its rightful place in Jewish life, teaching and encouraging many to not only think of the six million Jews who perished but also how to stand against racism and teach the world justice and compassion, to build a better and kinder world.

We began the day looking at all the reunited scrolls – we were so proud that our school’s scroll, rescued from the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, lay amongst them. There were scrolls from communities in London, Nottingham, Liverpool, Holland, the USA…and we met some lovely people who were representing those communities, including Pamela and Patrick from The Netherlands who are making a documentary about the rescued scrolls.

We were very grateful to be given our own personal tour of the Memorial Scrolls Trust Museum and hear a talk about the scrolls from its curator. We saw the oldest scroll in the museum, from the 1800s, and a Haftarah scroll, with its vowels and Cantor marks. The most fascinating room was where many Torah scrolls were stacked.

We carried our scroll in the procession. The service was lovely, and very moving at the end when Rabbi Benji Stanley and Rabbi Kamila Kopřivová read out the names of all the scrolls and each scroll holder stood up in turn.

Event organiser Jon Zecharia sent me this message:

I was personally blown away by the love felt in the building across the weekend and would like to just thank you for making the trip and bringing your heart to the day – please do also pass on my thanks to your community.

We’ve also got this link you can use to rewatch.

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