Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Our Temple's Orphan

At the end of WWII, somewhere in Czechoslovakia, almost 1600 orphans were found in a synagogue. About twenty years later the orphans were taken to London, and eventually made their way to twenty countries around the world.

The orphans I speak of were Torah scrolls which the the Nazis gathered as they marched across Czechoslovakia. In 1964 the scrolls were transported to the Westminster Synagogue in London. The scrolls were examined individually, and repairs were made as necessary, in order to make them once again kosher for ritual use. Scrolls were sent out into the world to synagogues on permanent loan, usually to congregations who could not afford to have their own Torah written (a Torah scroll, written by a single scribe according to exacting rules, can cost many thousands of dollars).

My temple is privileged to have one of these orphaned Torahs. Bratislava is about three hours by car to the town that our Torah came from. We rented a car and took a day trip to Golcuv Jenicov to see the synagogue.

The outside of the building has been restored by the Prague Jewish Museum. The building is used as additional storage for the museum, and it is not open to the public.

There aren't any Jews left in Golcuv Jenikov, and there aren't many remaining in the Czech or Slovak Republics. Most of them went to their deaths in the camps, and others emigrated to Israel or other countries, especially after the Communists came to power.

Today the majority of these orphans have found new loving families. Some remain in London, unable to be repaired enough to be used. Every Torah is special, but I get a chill every time our Torah leaves the ark, imagining the people who worshiped with it back in Golcuv Jenikov.


BipolarLawyerCook said...

This is so beautiful. Thanks for posting this.

Sonya said...

Thank you for your post. I have recently learned that my great-grandparents were from Golcuv Jenikov and immigrated to US in 1892 and have been trying to reseach it more. It is great to see the pics.