Czech Sefer Torah Scroll

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Temple Solel came into existence in 1966.  After only three years, in January 1969, a dedication of our Czech Holocaust Torah was held in honor of Mort Scult becoming President. The momentous event was the result of a drama that began 25 years previously in the dark days of the Nazi onslaught culminated with the dedication of the Czech Torah at a Shabbat service. It was very moving and heartfelt. Rabbi Jerrold Goldstein, Rabbi of the temple at that time, in his dedication sermon, said, “this precious Torah is a dramatic memorial to those of our brethren who perished in the Holocaust, which we can never forget. However, in its new home, it will always be cherished as an inspiration to all of us how precious our Judaism is for us and shall continue to be the spiritual light to future generations and our continuity with the past.”  – Mort Scult President of Temple Solel 1969-1971

In 1938 the Nazis overran Czechoslovakia. At that time there were 303 synagogues in the country and approximately 380,000 Jews. Of these, approximately 270,000 were rounded up and sent to the Terezin concentration camp and thereafter in the following months most were sent to the gas chambers in Auschwitz ,Treblinka and other death camps. Hitler’s plan was to create a “museum of an extinct race”.

According to historical records, when the synagogues were destroyed, the Torahs were stored at an abandoned synagogue near Prague and catalog by employees at the Jewish Museum in Prague who ironically all died in the gas chambers. The Torahs which came mostly from the desolated Jewish communities of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia eventually came under the communist control of the Czech State Cultural Agency (Atrtia).
According to historical records, when the synagogues were destroyed, the Torahs were stored at an abandoned synagogue near Prague and catalog by employees at the Jewish Museum in Prague who ironically all died in the gas chambers. The Torahs which came mostly from the desolated Jewish communities of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia eventually came under the communist control of the Czech State Cultural Agency (Atrtia).
After the war the Torahs were for the most part forgotten and for more than 20 years were exposed to mold, insects, and humidity. In 1963, Artia approached Eric Estorick, an art dealer in London, if he was interested in buying some of the Torahs. He approached a client, Ralph Lablon, who proceeded to discuss the matter with Harold Reinhart. Rabbi of the Westminster synagogue in London. After having the scrolls examined to establish their authenticity, Ralph Lablon, agreed to purchase 1564 Torah scrolls for $30,000. The Torah scrolls arrived at Westminster in 1964. Thereafter for the next few years the scrolls were examined by scribes to determine those which were kosher and could be repaired or restored and those which were in such a poor condition that they could only be used as part of a memorial. 140 such scrolls were determined to be in such poor condition that they could not be restored.
Subsequently a charitable trust was established called the Memorial Scrolls Trust (“MST”) which was given the task of distributing the Torahs throughout the world to be memorials everywhere to the Jewish tragedy. Their goal is to link 1000 Torah Scroll holders to the MST and to each other, ensuring their Torah scrolls remain identified, their location known, and visitors to their site learn about this special legacy. To date they have 472 reciprocal links, two of which are in Arizona, Congregation Or Chadash in Tucson and Hillel Jewish Center at ASU. They have an office in Sherman Oaks, Ca. P. O. 55110. Tel #818-207-7291 czechtorah@aol.com. Whether they should be contacted and be linked with others is an issue for the Temple Board to decide.
“In 1968, I was elected president of Temple Solel. In honor of my becoming president my wife’s father and my parents arranged for such a Czech Torah to be acquired and donated to the Temple in my honor. I do not know whether it was acquired directly from MST or not. Also, I do not know of any correspondence which exists with MST, nor am I aware that MST specifically knows that the Temple has one. In any event, on January 10, 1969, in honor of my becoming president of the Temple, a drama that began 25 years ago in the dark days of the Nazi onslaught culminated by the dedication of the Czech Torah at a Shabbat service. It was very moving and heartfelt. Rabbi Jerrold Goldstein, Rabbi of the temple at that time, in his dedication sermon said” this precious Torah is a dramatic memorial to those of our brethren who perished in the Holocaust, which we can never forget. However, in its new home it will always be cherished as an inspiration to all of us how precious our Judaism is for us and shall continue to be the spiritual light to future generations and our continuity with the past.”
– Mort Scult President of Temple Solel 1969-1971
Temple Solel is linked to the Memorial Scroll Trust and you can visit the site here: https://memorialscrollstrust.org to learn more about their program and read the stories of other scrolls from around the world. Thank you Jay Levinson for your tireless work in documenting the story of our beloved scroll.