This is an excerpt from an article Rabbi Susan Falk wrote for the CKS Newsletter, January 2010.
Congregation Kehilat Shalom’s very first Torah is a Holocaust Torah acquired during the synagogue’s early years from the Memorial Scrolls Trust located in London, England. The Memorial Scrolls Trust has distributed over 1000 Holocaust Torot, rescued from the ravages of World War II, and then housed in Westminster Synagogue, also in England. These scrolls are all from Jewish communities in Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia that were destroyed and looted by the Nazis.
Inscribed around 1800, our scroll, known as Sefer Torah #1268, is from a village in Bohemia (now the western half of the Czech Republic) called Kostelec nad Labem. During the war, I’m told, this scroll was buried in the ground for safekeeping. One of our long-time members and past presidents, Marilyn Nusbaum, made the Holocaust-themed blue velvet mantle that covers this Torah. Although the parchment is badly damaged and we do not chant from it, we sometimes remove this Torah from the ark during b’nei mitzvah “twinning ceremonies” when one of our young adults chooses to honor a child who perished in the Holocaust before ever having had his or her own bar or bat mitzvah.
Dr. Art Steinberg, another CKS past president, acquired our second Torah from a synagogue that closed outside of Philadelphia. For quite a while, CKS had only these two Torot. Then, sometime around 1991, a third Torah came into the possession of our congregation. In our Torah file is a note on a little piece of paper that
“We have received a new Torah! It is a Holocaust Torah which was rescued from a burning synagogue near Aachen, Germany during Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938. This Torah and a ceremonial menorah were donated through the Lehman family from Julius Fromm of Vineland, N.J. and the silver yad was donated by Carl and Julius
“Kristallnacht” refers to the “Night of Broken Glass” during which hundreds of synagogues and other Jewish properties across Germany were burned and looted and many Jews were murdered. It is considered the official
beginning of the Nazi Holocaust. The “Lehman family” of course refers to our very own member, Barbara Lehman.
The Jews of Vineland, I was reminded by another member, were in large part the community of Jewish chicken farmers who had settled several generations ago in south Jersey. A “yad” is a pointer held during Torah chanting so that we avoid touching the actual text.
On the wall in our sanctuary hangs a certificate authenticating the history of CKS’ first Torah rescued from
Kostelec nad Labem. At the end of a rather lengthy inscription, it says that our Holocaust Torah and others like it serve as “permanent memorials to the martyrs from whose synagogues they came… and… spread light as harbingers of future brotherhood on earth; and all of them bear witness to the glory of the holy Name.”
May we at CKS always be blessed as the keepers of these sacred scrolls, and may we for generations to
come bear witness to the glory of the Holy Name. Amen.