Temple Israel of Greater Miami has a Czech Holocaust Torah on loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust. We received it in 1969 after the trust approved Rabbi Joseph Narot’s request for a scroll. Over time the scroll was separated from its brass identification plate. When the Trust contacted us recently about our scroll, we had to start searching for it. Many congregants remembered we had a Holocaust scroll but did not know where it was. A local scribe from Sofer on Site came to inspect all our Torahs and he was able to identify which of the scrolls in the ark was from Czechoslovakia. We received confirmation of the scroll’s identity days before we were able to participate in an amazing event.
Temple Beth El in Hollywood, in conjunction with the Memorial Scrolls Trust, hosted Florida’s first-ever Holocaust Torah Reunion on the weekend of February 15, 2016. We were able to take our Czech scroll to the celebration and workshop, where it was part of a procession of 26 MST scrolls.
Our scroll is between 150 – 200 years old. It was written in Czechoslovakia. A sofer can tell by the writing style. The stitching used to connect the panels can tell you where the scroll was made. In a Czech scroll, there is a long thread between the loops. ( 0——0-—0—–). In a German scroll, a running stitch (in & out — — — — ) is used.
Most of the MST scrolls had a tag with the name of the city they came from. Our scroll did not. It is one of the 200 “orphan scrolls” because its identification tag was lost. But there is a list of Jewish communities that have not been paired up with a scroll. So we can “adopt” one of these cities and research its history. We may even be able to find the names of the Jews who once lived in the town we adopt. Each one of these scrolls not only carries the ancient text of the Jewish people but also enshrines the spirit of survival, revival, courage, and hope – qualities that have become the abiding strength of the Jewish people.
On December 23, 2016, our Czech scroll, dressed in its new mantle, was rededicated at the Shabbat service one day before the first night of Chanukah. This dedication prayer was based on the prayer used in Westminster Synagogue to dedicate the first MST scroll in 1968. Dear God, Source, and Sustainer of all creation - We thank You for this Torah which now comes to illumine our sanctuary and our lives. We consider it a sacred treasure. May its presence in our midst, serve as a memorial to the martyrs of our people, who perished in the Holocaust. We pray that the souls of the pious, whose eyes once looked upon this Torah, be remembered for good, and that we, who survive them, ensure that they did not die in vain.
As we bring this Torah back into our community and into the spiritual home we are building together, we pray that we may be worthy of the history which this scroll represents. May each of us deepen our commitment to a life of Torah, living lives that bring honor to the Jewish people, and advance the cause of peace and justice in the world. To this end, do we rededicate this Holocaust Torah, for use at Temple Israel of Greater Miami, this 14th day of Kislev, 5777, December 23, 2016. Amen.