IN CELEBRATION OF Temple Beth Sholom’s 75th Anniversary, the temple is inaugurating a year-long commitment to heal and restore to wholeness a very special Torah. This exquisite and historic scroll is one of the 1564 scrolls that were rescued during the Holocaust by the Prague Jewish community. These scrolls were purchased by the Westminster Synagogue in London in order to preserve the history of the many Jewish communities and individuals that perished in the Holocaust. Temple Beth Sholom is fortunate to have one of these scrolls, actually number 675, and has been entrusted to teach the history of this scroll and other scrolls like it as a way to ensure that we never forget those who cannot tell their stories. The temple was also entrusted by the Westminster Trust to restore this scroll.
The scroll is between 275-300 years old. Although it’s full story—where it came from, who wrote it and what communities it served before the Holocaust—isn’t totally revealed. Temple Beth Sholom has an opportunity to write its story and weave it with the temple’s 75-year history in Orange County.
Temple Beth Sholom hopes the community members will first learn more about this scroll and the Westminster Trust. It is important that we share the history of the Jews of Prague who spent the end of their lives rescuing the artifacts of the Jewish communities across Eastern Europe as a way to guarantee that the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe were never forgotten.
“Over the past couple of years, we have used this Czech scroll for the passing of the Torah from generation to generation during our B’nei Mitzvah services,” says Rabbi Heidi Cohen. “Many times, members have witnessed that those who hold this Torah find a deeper connection not only with their own families, but with the Jewish people over the past 300 years and beyond. Although we do not know who held this Torah in their arms before, but to know that it too was passed on from generation to generation and that we continue today, brings a sense of connection to the past and hope for the future.”
“Judaism is rooted in history,” says Pam Ranta, Director of Early Childhood Education. “The Czech scroll came to us from a place far away and a different period of time for our people. It was written for another community and saved from the ashes of the Holocaust. We are adding to the history of this scroll, to the history of the Jewish people. As we come together to rewrite the letters needed to make this scroll whole, we grow closer as a community, now with each of us having this experience in common.”
“This project is for all ages,” Ranta continues, “together, everyone will have a chance on January 21 to write a ‘get well’ message to the Torah as it begins its restoration journey.”
Throughout the next 11 months, all ages will have an opportunity to participate in the physical restoration of this scroll with Sofer on Site and the congregation. “We will learn more about the history of the Prague Jewish community as well as the traditions around writing and caring for a Torah scroll,” says Ranta. “Everyone will be welcome to participate, learn and celebrate with us over these next 11 months. Torah is for all ages and for all people and this project is no different.”
And there is special consideration given to each step of this process.
“Our volunteers who are overseeing this project made a conscious choice to use the word ‘Healing’ for our title,” says Esther Herst, Interim Director of Temple Beth Sholom. “We look upon this Torah as a living, breathing embodiment of the people who were part of its history and are no more. One definition of Healing is ‘to make sound or whole.’ The Jewish people and we at Temple Beth Sholom are committed to making our world ‘whole’ and to restoring to health our community – locally and across the world.” Esther continues, “By connecting with each other as we ‘heal’ our Torah, we will bind us together and strengthen our understanding of what is required to keep our hopes and our goals alive.”
There are many aspects of this restoration process, all of them equally important to the total healing process. However, it is community involvement that is top of mind to everyone.
“One of the most important pieces of this Torah restoration project is engaging our community in exciting learning opportunities,” says Jodi Kaufman, Director of Life-Long Learning. ‘Sofer on Site’ provides educational opportunities for all ages. During each of the visits there will be special educational programs. We are excited that the Sofer will have a booth at our Purim Carnival on March 4th. He has planned an exciting passport program for our children “ says Kaufman. “Each child will get a passport and can come back to the Sofer booth every 5-10 minutes for a new activity. Rabbi Cohen will be teaching each our Religious School classes about our Czech scroll and about Torah in general. We are thrilled to have her participating weekly in our younger grades. Adult learning opportunities will be part of each visit as well. During the summer months our Sofer will work with Camp Sholom Katan, our camp for our preschool children, as well as with Camp Sholom, our camp for our older students. Each Torah writing session will include a Torah fair with learning stations. Our goal is to make Torah accessible to all.”
For more information on how you can get involved and support this exciting journey please visit www.tbsoc.com.
In celebration of Temple Beth Sholom’s 75th Anniversary, the temple is inaugurating a year-long commitment to heal and restore to wholeness this exquisite and historic Torah. Join them on this exciting journey.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 21 at 11:15 AM
Wish our Czech Torah Misheberach as it departs to Florida for repair and renewal. Lend your hand to the healing process by offering a “get-well” message to the Torah.
SUNDAY & MONDAY, MARCH 4-5
TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY, MAY 15-16
WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY, AUGUST 1-2
Engage in the 613th Mitzvah by writing in our Czech Torah, guided by our Sofer.
FRIDAY-SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 2-4
Welcome home our Torah – healed and
readied for its next 300 years!
For more information please visit www.tbsoc.com or call (714) 628-4600.