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Beth Shalom's Holocaust Torah

In summer of 2021, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, Congregation Beth Shalom was able to acquire a Holocaust Torah.

MST #1080 is on permanent loan from Memorial Scrolls Trust. The Memorial Scrolls Trust is the steward of 1,564 Sifrei Torah that were rescued in 1942 by Jewish employees of the Jewish Museum in Prague. The Torah scrolls were gathered from many parts of eastern Europe during the Holocaust as Jewish synagogues and communities were being destroyed.

Each one of these scrolls not only carries the ancient text of the Jewish people but also enshrines the spirit of survival, revival, courage and hope – qualities that have become the abiding strength of the Jewish people.

In 1964, twenty-two years after the Torah scrolls were rescued and brought to the Jewish Museum in Prague, a group of British philanthropists purchased them from the Communist government in Czechoslovakia. The Torah scrolls arrived at the Westminster Synagogue in London without any adornment.

Many of them were damaged. The Memorial Scrolls Trust was founded to preserve the scrolls and find new homes for them.Beth Shalom’s Holocaust Torah initially was brought to the United States in 1983. It was loaned to the Solomon Schechter School of Rockland. 

The school closed in 2012, and, because the tiny plaque identifying the Torah had come off, the lead trustee in charge of the school’s sale, Bernie Gelb, did not know where the Torah had come from. Mr. Gelb continued to research the scroll’s provenance and eventually determined that it was a Czech Torah from Memorial Scrolls Trust.

Our Czech Torah is about 200 years old and was at the Prague Krankenheim, a hospital, prior to the Holocaust. Before Congregation Beth Shalom obtained the Torah, it hadn’t been read from in many years due to letters that had faded with age. In June 2021, Soferet Alexandra Casser made repairs to bring the Torah to a condition suitable for reading.  According to the soferet, the etzim – wooden handles, are likely original to the Torah scroll. They were made on a foot-powered lathe and finished with a hand tool.

After its repair, Rabbi Borodin brought the Torah to Seattle.  Not wanting to put it in a suitcase and have it go through the baggage handlers, she purchased a large duffle bag to hold the Sefer Torah and bought a separate seat on the airplane so that she could keep it with her at all times. Getting through security was tricky, but Rabbi Borodin arrived at the airport extra early, and eventually she was able to take it on the plane. 

We dedicated Holocaust Torah #1080 and read from it for the first time on Simchat Torah 5782.

 

The Stern Torah

The Bierman Torah

In 1999, Beth Shalom dedicated a Torah, commissioned by Marilyn Bierman, z"l, in memory of her husband, Edwin L. Bierman, z"l.

Dr. Bierman loved Jewish learning.

In his ethical will, he wrote that "conservation of the Jewish tradition in the modern world has been a benchmark to strive for... Along with learning is the obligation to teach.  Learn it, do it, teach it."

In addition to commissioning a beautiful sefer Torah, Marilyn Bierman established the annual Edwin L Bierman Scholar in Residence program at Beth Shalom.  Ed and Marilyn's children have continued the tradition, renaming it the Edwin and Marilyn Scholar in Residence and creating an endowment to support the annual program.

The Becker Torah

From an article written in 2006 by Dorothy and Jerry Becker, z"l

Our search for a Torah for Beth Shalom was enlightening.  We were looking for a good used Torah, not altogether easy to find.  We know that under the right conditions, a Torah can last for hundreds of years.  We want to thank Nance Adler, Susan Bernstein, Jason Kintzer, and Joel Migdal for their experienced advice; that the Torah needed to be readable, i.e. clear printing and space between the words, it needed to be in good repair, and if possible not too big and heavy!   

We contacted an old friend, Rabbi Joel Rembaum, senior rabbi at Beth Am in Los Angeles to help us keep the search an easy travel distance. (Rabbi Rembaum served as our High Holiday rabbi at Beth Shalom in 1977.)   He introduced us to a sofer in LA that he knows and uses, Rabbi David Rue.  Rabbi Rue found us 3 possible Torahs. In the end, with Rabbi Rembaum’s assistance, we chose one whose script is clear, is in excellent condition, but not very lightweight.

The Torah, which will be read in our sanctuary for the first time on Simchat Torah (2006), was written by a Polish scribe in the 1930’s.  It was, most recently, used in a synagogue in New York that has closed its doors.  We have no idea how it got to America.

In the end, it was the Torah’s history that decided for us.   Dorothy’s grandparents from Poland did not survive the Holocaust.  Her grandfather was a rabbi, who taught in a Yeshiva in Ostroveh and was “known far and wide” for his reading of the megillah.   Her father was born and raised in New York City. The choice seemed “bashert’, meant to be.   As we read Bereshit, this Torah will truly have a new beginning.  "

 

Fri, May 27 2022 26 Iyyar 5782