Westminster Memorial Scrolls Trust Torah of The New Reform Temple
Nineteen years after the last German troops had surrendered in Prague, 1,564 Torah scrolls arrived in London representing hundreds of Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia that had been wiped out in the Holocaust. For many years, the scrolls lay unused and unattended in a Prague synagogue that had been used as a warehouse. They were then shipped across Europe, arriving at the Westminster Synagogue in London on February 7, 1964. In the years since then, the Torahs have been sent to Jewish communities in Great Britain and twenty other countries of the Western world, including West Germany, to be cherished as memorials to a tragic past but at the same time to be read and studied by a new generation of Jews: the guarantors of Jewish survival and rebirth.
Interested in learning more? Read about Westminster Synagogue and the Memorial Scrolls Trust.
Receiving our Scroll
In 1967, upon the founding of The New Reform Temple, Paul Uhlmann, Jr. the founding president of our congregation obtained for guardianship one of the “orphans” Torahs (read his original acceptance letter). Our scroll is from Moravia Ostrava and was written in 1910. The style of writing is German with a dramatic leftward tilt of approximately 15 degrees. It theorized that the Torah may have been written by a team of scribes, as there is some slight variation in script, but more importantly there appear to be some ink variations, as some columns are black and others a reddish brown (normally a sign of an older Torah that suggests a different ink formula.) This inconsistency is less evident after the restoration. The Torah has kabbalistic embellishments, such as slight spirals in a “peh,” delicate feet hanging from a “chet,” possible vestiges of a Sabbatian influence; such features unusual for “newer” Torah. (Most Torah of the Westminster Memorial Scrolls Trust are 250 years old.)
Our Certificate states the following:
The Sefer Torah number 352 which this certificate accompanies is one of the 1564 Czech Memorial Sifre Torah which constituted part of the treasures looted by the Nazis during the 1939-19456 war from the desolated Jewish communities of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia, and which had been cared for by the Czechoslovak Government for many years, and which were acquired, with the good-will of the Czechoslovak Government, by good friends from Artia ( the state Cultural Agency) for Westminster Synagogue, where they arrived on the 7th February 1964.
Some of the collection remain at Westminster Synagogue, a permanent memorial to the martyrs from whose synagogues they come; many of them are distributed throughout the world, to be memorials everywhere to the Jewish tragedy and to spread light as harbingers of future brotherhood on earth; and all of them bear witness to the glory of the holy name.
Restoring our Scroll
Rabbi Alan Londy, the spiritual leader of the congregation, advocated that the Torah be restored. He felt that it was our obligation not only to be a guardian but to give new life to the scroll. In 2018, we undertook in honor of its 50 anniversary the restoration of the Torah Scroll. Permission was requested and granted from the Trust. The project was spearheaded by Michael Grossman, a past president of the congregation.
Members of the congregation were each permitted to fix one letter in the Torah (pictured in top section above) in order to fulfill the 613th commandment for each Jew to write their own Torah in their lifetime. No donation was required.
The rededication ceremony was on celebrated Sunday, December 9, 2018. The Scroll now plays a prominent and meaningful part in the religious and educational life of our community. It has become a tradition for Torah portions for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.