Eric Estorick born in the USA and moved to England after marrying Salome Dessau. He was the owner of the Grosvenor Gallery in London and frequently visited eastern Europe in search of works of art from Russia and the communist countries. He was approached in Prague by Artia, the Czech government department which controlled the sale of such items, to ask if he was interested in the purchase of a large quantity of Jewish artefacts. He contacted Ralph Yablon, who was a customer of the Grosvenor Gallery and subsequently, acting on the latter’s behalf, was able to negotiate the sale of the scrolls by Artia to Ralph Yablon.
Ralph Yablon, after many years as a practising solicitor, developed a wide range of commercial and academic interests, and was also a prominent philanthropist. He was a founder member of Westminster Synagogue, and he and his wife Phyllis were close personal friends of Flora and Harold Reinhart. He had been instrumental in finding a permanent home for the congregation at Kent House, and with others helped to finance its purchase. His first reaction to the information he received about the scrolls was to seek guidance from Rabbi Reinhart, and together they determined to pursue the matter and to take on the awesome responsibility for the scrolls. Ralph Yablon duly purchased the scrolls and donated them to Westminster Synagogue. In due course the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust was created to take over the formal responsibility for the scrolls. Ralph Yablon was a Trustee and provided further financial support, until his death in 1984.
Rabbi Dr. Harold Reinhart was born in Portland, Oregon, and trained as a rabbi at the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati. He was the leader of several congregations in America before being invited to become Senior Minister at the leading Reform Synagogue in London, the West London Synagogue of British Jews. He was responsible for enabling some of Germany’s Progressive rabbis to escape to England, where they obtained posts, leading to the expansion of Reform Judaism in this country. In 1957 he and some of the leading members of his community left West London to form The Westminster Synagogue, which eventually settled at Kent House in Knightsbridge.
Professor Chimen Abramsky was emeritus professor of Jewish studies at University College London. He was born in Minsk the son of Rabbi. He gained a BA degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an MA from the University of Oxford. He was Reader in Jewish History, then Goldsmith Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London. He was a Senior Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford. A noted scholar of Jewish History, Abramsky was also well known as an expert and antiquarian Hebrew books and manuscripts, and was an advisor on Hebraica and Jusaica for many years to the auction house Sotheby's, Ralph Yablon arranged for him to travel to Prague and to report on the condition of the scrolls.
Having served with distinction in World War I, where he earned the MC, Captain Frank Waley was a founder member, first Chairman and the second President of Westminster Synagogue. He was also the Chairman of the Memorial Scrolls Committee (as it was then known).
His brusque manner hid a warm heart and a great sense of humour, and he was an enthusiastic and indefatigable supporter of the Scrolls project from its inception. He was a distinguished gardener and was awarded an OBE for his services to arboriculture.
Ruth Shaffer was born in Warsaw, the daughter of the Yiddish writer, Sholem Asch. She lived in Europe and America, before settling in London, where she and her husband joined Westminster Synagogue. Her friendship with Rabbi Reinhart led him to invite her to help with the increasing workload of the Scrolls organisation, a task which she fulfilled faithfully for nearly forty years, working almost single handedly for much of the time. She set up the scrolls database, first on index cards and later on computer, which she learned to use in her eighties. Her system was the basis for all the subsequent work connected with the scrolls. She was the driving force behind the project and she and the Trust became synonymous. Her ability to speak Yiddish was crucial in her close working relationship with David Brand, the Sofer.
1915 – 2003
Constance Stuart was born into a strict Presbyterian family. She became a close friend of Rabbi and Mrs. Reinhart, converting to Judaism at the West London Synagogue. She moved to Westminster as a founder member and after many years as Treasurer became the first woman Chairman. In the financial world she was recognised as one of its leading women, and was the first female Company Secretary. Her flair for administration and accountancy made her an ideal joint Chairman of the Memorial Scrolls Trust, and she worked tirelessly on behalf of the project to the end of her life.