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Our Memorial Czech Torah Scroll

Memorial Scroll Trust at Adath Israel

Eleanor Glaser z"l, a past president of the Adath Israel Sisterhood, was an active member of Adath Israel for many years. A highlight of her service to our congregation was her tenacity in obtaining and establishing our synagogue as a home to one of the Torahs looted by the Nazis from the Pincus synagogue in Prague.

The Torah (Sefer Torah MST #391) resides in a case in the Harrison lobby outside the Mandell Sanctuary. The Torah scroll and hand-carved Etz Hayim and Yad are late 19th century Czech. 

Story of the Scrolls

The Jewish Museum in Prague was created in 1906 and at the time the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia the collection contained some 760 items. Although the German authorities immediately began to enforce racial anti-Jewish laws the day the Protectorate was established, the Jewish Museum in Prague continued to exist. In September 1941, the Nazis banned the holding of Jewish services and in December 1941 it became a storehouse for items taken from the empty Prague synagogues.

Following instructions from the Nazi Zentralstelle in 1942 for all communities in Bohema and Moravia to send their “historically valuable” items to the Jewish Museum in Prague, some members of Prague’s Jewish community persuaded the Nazis to allow them bring other religious treasures from the deserted communities and destroyed synagogues to the comparative safety of Prague.  More than 212,000 artifacts were brought to the Museum.  Among them were about 1,800 Torah scrolls.  Each item was meticulously recorded. lapeled and entered on a card index by the Museum’s staff with a description and the place it had come from. The Nazis’ interest in the museum most probably developed from a number of practical problems that had to be resolved. The main reason is clear - the museum enabled the Nazis to gain in a short period of time in-depth knowledge about confiscated Jewish objects that were of particular value. It is clear that the Nazis had no experts for such specialist work as the registration and evaluation of confiscated Jewish artifacts that were of artistic or historical value. It is possible that the Nazis saw the museum as a special department for the collection, documentation, storage and evaluation of confiscated Jewish property.

After the war some fifty Jewish congregations re-established themselves in the Czech Republic and were provided with religious artifacts, not necessarily from their own communities.  When the Communists took over the government of the country in 1948, Jewish communal life was again stifled, and most synagogues were closed. Their possessions went to the newly refounded  Jewish Museum of Prague. The scrolls were transferred and warehoused in the ruined synagogue at Michle outside Prague where they remained until they came to London in 1964. 

Learn more about the this memorial Torah by visiting www.memorialscrollstrust.org.

Pinkas Synagogue in Prague

To learn more about the Pinkas Synagogue, where our Memorial Scroll came from, visit the following sites:

 

Wed, October 5 2022 10 Tishrei 5783