HISTORY OF OUR CZECH TORAH SCROLL
In 1972, Rabbi Michael Stroh, (now Rabbi Emeritus), heard that Holocaust Torahs were available for new congregations and requested one for Temple Har Zion. Torah Scroll #873 was received by our congregation in July 1972. It is on permanent loan from The Memorial Scrolls Trust Westminster Synagogue in London.
Between 1942 and the end of the war, 1,564 Torah Scrolls were miraculously saved by brave, doomed Czech Jews from destruction by the Nazis. These Torahs were purchased from the communist government of Czechoslovakia in 1964 by Jewish philanthropist Ralph Yablon, a congregant of the Westminster Synagogue in London.
The Westminster Scrolls Trust was established at that time to sort, examine and catalogue each scroll, and to distribute the scrolls back into the life of Jewish congregations across the world.
Our scroll is an “orphan”, as it cannot be traced to one of the 88 towns whose synagogues have lost their Sifrei Torah.
Since the fate of the Sifrei Torah of the former synagogue in the town of Michle, Czech Republic, is equally unknown, the Temple Har Zion Holocaust Torah Committee chose to adopt the town and claim it as the “parent” of our orphan Torah. In this way we honour the memory of the lost congregation — the congregants who lovingly sent it to be saved when they knew they were doomed, the children who never became B’nai Mitzvah, and the souls for whom Kaddish has not been recited for almost 70 years.
Each week we say Kaddish for some of the Michle congregants who perished in the Shoah, so that all names are read once during the year. In addition, during our annual Yom HaShoah commemorative service, 11 of our pre-B’nai Mitzvah children recall and represent the 11 children from Michle who were murdered before becoming B’nai Mitzvah. In this way, we honour the Michle Jewish community and our Shoah Scroll.
For more information see The Memorial Scrolls Newsletter
The Diamond Torah
The smallest Torah at Temple Har Zion was donated by Lee and Mel Diamond in honour of Mel’s parents. It was presented to Temple at a ceremony attended by Mel’s father. The names of his parents, Abraham and Fanny Diamond, are inscribed on the bottom of the scroll.
The Torah was purchased in Toronto in 1987 from Rabbi Abraham Kubayov. Rabbi Kubayov had rescued a number of Torahs from Germany and Eastern Europe after the war. His records indicate that this Torah was discovered in the German town of Buttenhausen.
Rabbi Kubayov found the person who had taken the Torah from the synagogue after all the Jews were expelled from the town. He kept it hidden in his basement. Accompanied by a bodyguard, the rabbi went to visit the man who agreed to sell him the Torah and other accoutrements which he had taken from the synagogue.
The Little Torah
The midsize of the three Torahs at Temple Har Zion is affectionately referred to as “Mama Bear.” Donated by Bernie Little and family, the Torah dates back to 1927 when Bernie’s grandfather and his brother decided to honour their father, Zelig Letofsky, by donating a Torah to the Dovercourt Shul, of which they were members. They hired a scribe to write the Torah, and since it is customary to allow the donor the honour of inscribing the last four words, it is believed that Bernie’s grandfather did so. The names of his grandfather and great-uncle are inscribed on the top frame of the Torah.
When the Dovercourt Shul was down to only a few members, it merged with Shaarei Shomayim. At the time, Bernie’s father, David Little, very much wanted to donate the Torah to Temple Har Zion. A meeting was held where the committee members objected to the Torah going to a Reform Temple. David stood up and told how his own father had reacted when he announced that he was going to join a conservative rather than an orthodox synagogue. His father replied that he was pleased David was going to continue being a practicing Jew, and as for the synagogue he had chosen, it was irrelevant. A vote was taken and it was unanimously decided to donate the scroll to Temple Har Zion.