Congregation Bonai Shalom is thrilled to announce that we have received a Torah from the Pinchas Synagogue in Prague, Czech Republic!
This was made possible thanks to the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London, England that allowed the CBS to obtain the scroll. The Memorial Scrolls Trust cares for 1,564 Torah scrolls that represent the lost Jewish communities of Bohemia and Moravia. Some 1,400 have been allocated on loan to communities and organizations around the world. You can learn more about the Czech Torah Scroll and the Memorial Scrolls Trust at their official website.
Our Torah Story
The story of our new scroll begins in Prague, present day Czech Republic, in 1775. A Sefer Torah was written and given a home in the Pinchas Synagogue, where it resided for nearly 170 years before being looted during the Nazi plunder.
The Pinchas Synagogue is the second oldest building in the Prague ghetto and began in 1535 as a private house of prayer. In the 17th century, the synagogue expanded to include a women’s gallery and was used for worship by the local congregation. Today its importance lies in its role as a memorial to the 80,000 victims of the Holocaust from Bohemia and Moravia, whose names are hand-painted on the walls. The list for the inscriptions was compiled from sources which include extant transport papers and registration lists. Pinchas Synagogue also houses a poignant exhibition of children’s drawings from Terezin concentration camp. You can learn more about the history of the Pinchas Synagogue here.
Two of our congregants visited the Westminster Synagogue in London several years ago, where they toured the workshop where soferim (ritual scribes) labored to repair and restore Torah scrolls that were recovered after the war. Nazi plunder had begun in 1933 and continued into the early 1940s. The surviving scrolls were saved while the communities who worshiped with them were destroyed in WWII. From Bohemia, Moravia and Prague, scrolls were brought to London in the loving care of the Memorial Scrolls Trust.
When Rabbi Kevin Hale, an experienced sofer (scribe), came to Bonai in 2022 to do some needed Torah repair and maintenance, he had a conversation about the Czech scrolls and mentioned that the Memorial Scrolls Foundation still had Torahs to lend. Rabbi Hale has been instrumental in helping Bonai through the application process, even writing a letter to the head of the Trust with whom he had worked previously, to assure him that Bonai was a worthy recipient.
The team at Bonai wrote a letter as well, introducing ourselves and our community, an application was submitted, and our Board approved the acquisition of the scroll with the assistance of the Memorial Scroll Trust.
While visiting family in London, Rabbi Marc paid a visit to the Memorial Scroll Museum and shared that he hoped to return to Colorado with the scroll sometime in August, 2023.
Finally, a note on the rimonim or Torah Crowns – the ones with the little bells that joyfully sing as the Torah is carried around the sanctuary each Shabbat.
Lauren Stewart, a Bonai member, heard the story of our new/old Torah and contacted the congregation to inform us that she owned two exquisite rimonim that had been given to her late father, Julian Feldman, in honor of his 40 years as Executive Director of the Washington Hebrew Congregation – a congregation that has been in existence over 170 years!
Lauren presented these to Bonai Shalom several weeks ago and we are honored to receive them. What is particularly lovely is that these rimonim seem to fit the look of the age of our Pinchas Torah. To this already amazingly generous contribution, Lauren and Joe then donated a magnificent silver breastplate fashioned by the same London silversmith – Moses Selkind – in the early 1900’s. This will be a truly well-dressed Torah scroll!
Efforts are underway to help raise funds for this wonderful cause – we hope you’ll help and that you’ll join us on August 18th for a Musical Kabbalat Shabbat where we’ll dedicate our Pinchas Torah! If you’d like to donate or learn more, visit bonaishalom.org/czech-torah-2023