Deena Schuman writes:
Congregants to Visit Czech Republic to Honor Their Rescued Torah Scrolls
For five days, from June 17-22, congregants of Old York Road Temple-Beth Am in Abington, Pennsylvania, and friends Â will tour the fairly-tale-like streets of old Prague in the Czech Republic and visit the synagogues and cemeteries of the former Jewish Ghetto. They will learn about the 1,000 years of Pragueâ€™s Jewish past and celebrate its renewal with a Shabbat meal in the home of a Jewish family.
However, the highlight of their trip–its sacred missionâ€”will be their pilgrimage to the heart of Moravia and Bohemia, to the town of SvetlĂˇ nad SĂˇzavou. There, joined by representatives of the Jewish communities of the Czech Republic, and other local dignitaries, they will fulfill a solemn promiseâ€”Zachor–to remember.
On November 2, 2014, the congregation of Old York Road Temple-Beth Am paid homage to their three Czech Memorial Holocaust Torah scrolls on the 50th anniversary of their rescue from the ashes of 153 Jewish communities of Czechoslovakia that were destroyed by the Nazis and to the martyred Jews from their towns, Louny, TĂˇbor and SvetlĂˇ nad SĂˇzavou who cherished them.
Miraculously, these Sefer Torahs made their way from the towns of TĂˇbor, Louny and SvetlĂˇ nad SĂˇzavou to the Westminster Synagogue in London, and, finally, to our Holy Arks in Abington, Pa. Â Their extraordinary story was related through oral memoirs, a documentary film, and music, to a large gathering of members of our synagogue and the greater community at a moving Torah rededication and memorial program.
Czech scrolls are never sold. Rather, they are given on permanent loan to synagogues, with the understanding that they be given a meaningful role in the spiritual and educational life of their new congregations. Additionally, a connection must be made to the towns from where they originated by locating survivors and looking after cemeteries of synagogue buildings that still exist.Â Beth Am has joyfully fulfilled those obligations by incorporating our Torahs into the religious activities of our congregation each year, and by reaching out to their towns of origin in what was then Czechoslovakia.
No Jews remain in the three Czech towns, which makes it especially significant that the people of TĂˇbor and Louny have honored the memories of their Jewish citizens lost in the Shoah. Tragically, the beautiful synagogue of TĂˇbor was used by the Nazis as a warehouse. It was torn down in 1977, and today in its place is a memorial plaque in what is now a parking lot. In April of 2013, a group of â€śBeth Amniksâ€ť led by Rabbi Robert Leib made a pilgrimage to Louny to visit the former synagogue building and Jewish cemetery. They were warmly welcomed by Mayor Radovan Sabata and officials from the Federation of Jewish Communities based in Prague. Then, in 2015, members of the Jewish community of Teplice, near Louny, joined Mayor Sabata in a moving service and unveiling of a memorial plaque on the former synagogue building in honor of the martyred Jews of Louny.
Now, on June 21, 2016, they will complete the circle by commemorating their third Czech Memorial Scroll, the â€śLittle Torah from SvetlĂˇ,â€ť and the fifty-five Jews of that town who were taken to Terezin on June 13, 1942 and murdered in the Holocaust. After more than a year of planning with the Jewish Federation of Prague and Mayor Jan Tourek of SvetlĂˇ nad SĂˇzavou, seven Beth Am congregants and three members of the Morawetz family, the prominent Jewish family who owned the Chateau of SvetlĂˇ pre-WWII, will witness and celebrate the unveiling of a memorial plaque with an inscription etched in Czech, English and Hebrew:
Na pamÄ›ĹĄ ĹľidovskĂ˝ch obyvatel naĹˇeho mÄ›sta, kteĹ™Ă se vÂ letech 1939 â€“ 1945 stali obÄ›ĹĄmi holocaustu.
In memory of the Jewish citizens of our city who perished in the Holocaust 1939-1945.
×ś×‘×¨×›×” ×–×›×¨×•× ×ť
Old York Road Temple-Beth Am, PA, USA a rodina MorawetzÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â MÄ›sto SvÄ›tlĂˇ nad SĂˇzavou