- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - A 750-year-old Torah that was taken by the Nazis in Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust has been restored and now has a new home - in Tuscaloosa.

Temple Emanu-El celebrated the Torah on Sunday in a service remembering where the scrolls came from and what that means - even though the exact community and congregation of origin are not known. Worshipping with this particular Torah is a way of remembering and honoring the 6 million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust, said Rabbi Steven Jacobs.

“They did not die or pass away; they were murdered for one reason and one reason only: because they were Jews,” Jacobs said. “They were not the enemy, they were victims and we have not the luxury of forgetting. Every time we will open the scroll, we will remember and make a silent vow and promise. This scroll is not a symbol of the end of that community, but a sign that they did survive because that scroll is here.”

The Torah is one of 1,564 scrolls that were taken from the areas of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia and gathered in Prague, Czechoslovakia, during the Nazis’ occupation. In 1963, the scrolls were sent to the West Minister Synagogue in London, which during the last 50 years has been restoring the Torahs and placing them at synagogues and universities around the world. It is one of four Torahs that Rabbi Jacobs has helped bring to Alabama, the others placed in Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery.

But it is by far the oldest.

The Torah, which did not have a name, date or any signifier of its history, was thought to be from the 18th or 19th century. But to make sure, the scrolls underwent carbon dating to determine its age. Jacobs said he was shocked to find that the scrolls, which are made of animal hide, dated from between 1223 A.D. and 1315 A.D. - between 700 to 792 years old.

The oldest known complete Torah scrolls are around 850 years old, which means this one could be the second-oldest known complete Torah scrolls, said Paul Aharon, who spoke on the dating project during the temple’s ceremony Sunday.

Torah scrolls are handwritten by scribes and normally take one to three years to complete, Jacobs said.

“This particular scroll is among the earliest that I have read,” Jacobs said. “It speaks volumes, it’s a kind of commitment that we have made. It’s a sacred moment for this congregation.”

During Sunday’s service, the Torah was carried into the Temple Emanu-El and read from during a worship service for the first time since before World War II, Jacobs said. The scrolls are on permanent loan to the temple from the Memorial Scrolls Committee of the Westminister Synagogue in London in order to honor and remember the 6 million who died during the Holocaust. The Torah now joins two other Torah scrolls in the temple’s Aron Kodesh, or “Holy Ark.”

“It is so wonderful and a testament to the continuity of the Jewish people to have this and be able to read it,” said co-president of the congregation Hattie Kaufman.

The scrolls and their origin are particularly meaningful to the Temple Emanu-El’s congregation, because a number of the members have family members who were killed in the Holocaust or were Holocaust survivors.

“We are thrilled to have it,” said Anna Jacobs Singer, congregation co-president. “It’s very moving for all of us.”

___

Information from: The Tuscaloosa News, https://www.tuscaloosanews.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide