Our Czech Scroll - Holocaust Memorial Torah #585
At Marathon Jewish Community Center we are privileged to have Czech Memorial Torah Scroll #585. It is believed to be one of the Torahs from the Alteneue Shul in Prague, The Old New Synagogue or Altneuschul (Czech: Staronová synagoga; German: Altneu-Synagoge) situated in Josefov, Prague, is Europe's oldest active synagogue. Completed in 1270 in gothic style, it was one of Prague's first gothic buildings.
The 16th century began the Jewish Renaissance in Prague. Prague nobility in 1501 allowed for an open atmosphere of economic activity Yet during the Habsburg reign, the Jewish people were expelled twice in 1542 and 1561. Each time they returned to prosper even more. From 1564-1612, the reigns of Maximilian II and Rudolf II were “golden ages” for the Jews in Prague. In the early 18th century, the Jews accounted for about one fourth of Prague’s population. More Jewish people lived in Prague than anywhere else in the world. This “golden age” ended with Empress Maria Theresa abdicating the throne, and expelling the Jews once again. Eventually the Jews were readmitted in 1748 after much influential intervention.
Hitler ordered the German Army to enter Prague on 15 March 1939 and from Prague Castle proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate. For most of its history Prague had been a multi-ethnic city with important Czech, German and (mostly Czech- and/or German-speaking) Jewish populations.[ From 1939, when the country was occupied by Nazi Germany, and during World War II, most Jews were deported and killed by the Germans.1
In 1964, the Memorial Scrolls Committee of Westminster Synagogue in London arranged for the shipment of 1564 scrolls to the Synagogue, where they were catalogued and repaired and restored when possible. Each Torah was given a numbered brass plaque to identify its origin. Scrolls that could not be made fit for synagogue use were sent to religious and educational institutions as solemn memorials. Those that were repaired and could be used in religious service were sent to fulfill requests of synagogues all over the world in return for a contribution toward restoration expenses.
The Memorial Scrolls Trust, a U.K. non-profit organization, has recently begun to reach out to synagogues and other instititutions who received the Czech scrolls to gather updated information about them. They plan to continue to enhance their website so it becomes "a repository of all knowledge concerning the 1564 scrolls, the Jewish history of the towns they came from, the Jews of those towns, their fate, survivors’ stories, photos etc. Also where the scrolls are now, how they are used and honoured etc." More information about the Memorial Scrolls Trust is available on www.memorialscrollstrust.org.
On May 3, 1970 the congregation held a very special Siyyum HaTorah and Kabbalat HaTorah ceremony and placed this Holocaust Torah in its new home in our library as part of the synagogue’s Holocaust memorial display.
1 All the history of the Jews of Prague comes from Wikepedia articles.