THE JSL CZECH MEMORIAL SCROLL #749
By Jo Strausz Rosen
I traveled to Beachwood, Ohio, on Sunday, April 23, 2023, to participate in a very special event honoring a Holocaust Torah Scroll that resides in Prentis Apartments in Oak Park. The history behind this scroll will chill you. Never Forget.
During World War II, the Nazis closed and destroyed synagogues in the Jewish communities in Moravia and Bohemia, looting them of their cherished contents. In 1942, the Nazi officials in charge of the Czech “Protectorate” established the Central Jewish Museum, located in Prague, and shipped over 10,000 ritual objects from liquidated Jewish communities and synagogues to the Museum. The objects included ceremonial candlesticks, books, pictures, and embroidered vestments. The museum curators, who were later taken to Terezin and Auschwitz, meticulously catalogued the vast collection of objects that would later become part of the collection of the Jewish Museum of Prague.
Approximately 1,800 Torah Scrolls were also brought to the Central Jewish Museum with the hope that eventually they would be returned to their communities. After World War II, the Torah Scrolls were taken to the abandoned Michle Synagogue, in a suburb of Prague. They lay piled in disuse in the 18th century stone building, a damp warehouse.
After the war through the efforts of what is now the Memorial Scrolls Trust (MST), 1,564 scrolls were packed and sent to London to be restored. In 1964 the Westminster Synagogue was selected as caretaker of the collection and a Memorial Scrolls Committee was established to distribute the Scrolls “on permanent loan” to congregations throughout the world.
There was worldwide publicity during the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Czech Torah Scrolls from communist Europe. This publicity reached our local Detroit Jewish Federation. Adrienne Renee Mahler,’” Administrative Assistant for the Jewish Federation Apartments, Inc. who also served for a time as Director of Special Projects at the Jewish Home for the Aged, sent a letter requesting that Prentis Apartments receive a scroll for the chapel. After a year of correspondence, the request was granted. Scroll #749, originally from the community of Praha Smichov, in the Czech Republic, arrived in Detroit and was ceremoniously received on January 22, 1986.
Last Sunday, representatives from twenty congregations from throughout the Midwest brought their Czech scrolls or displays showing their scrolls to Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood for an emotional, poignant, and one-of-a-kind reunion. Each scroll was called to the bimah by its community name with representatives from their city. Lines of Leviticus were read in memory of the Jews from Czechoslovakia who perished, and in honor of those who survived. I represented JSL and Michigan and stood proudly carrying a candle in memory of those who perished from the town of Praha-Smichov, whose Scroll #749 is lovingly preserved and displayed at Prentis Apartments. Please follow the link to read more: https://jslmi.org/programs/program-for-holocaust-survivors-families/czech-memorial-scroll-torah/