Czech Scroll Memorial Service, Shabbat Shuvah 19th September 2015
The FRS Czech Scroll Group organised our community’s 17th Czech Scroll Service. This year was as memorable as ever thanks to a number of special guests.
Jeffrey Ohrenstein (third from right) is the recently appointed chair of trustees at the Memorial Scroll Trust. One of the initiatives taken by the MST Board of Trustees is a travelling exhibition about the rescuing of the 1,642 Czech scrolls. We thank the MST for making it possible to use their 12 panel exhibition as the backdrop for our service.
We were very excited to welcome Hana Kubova and her son Michal (see below)from Uhrineves, our scroll town.. It wasn’t Hana’s first visit. She had visited FRS in 2000. She said she wanted to come and represent her town this year as it is the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.
Hana’s Jewish grandfather, Ludwig Dux, ran a clothes shop in the town of Uhrineves. Ludwig and his two daughters and a son were sent to the Terezin concentration camp. Ludwig perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz but Hana’s aunts and her father miraculously survived.
During the section of our service when we say Kaddish for 10 of the 240 victim names, Rabbi Howard Cooper invited Hana to choose the name of her grandfather, Ludwig. It was a most moving moment.
Our guest speaker this year was Ruth-Anne Lenga (second from left in first photo). . Ruth-Anne is the head of academic programmes at the Institute of Education. Her work in Holocaust education has been outstanding. She has authored many exhibitions and educational resources.
Ruth-Anne spoke about how she had been commissioned by the Memorial Scrolls Trust to develop a bar/bat mitzvah module specifically for communities like FRS who have a Czech Memorial scroll. The 6 unit module is entitled “Message from the Scrolls Unlocking the silence”. It is freely available as a download on the MST website.
Ruth Anne said that she is hoping that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah programme leaders will give serious consideration to teaching the module at FRS. Ruth indicated that she would be willing to give help and support to the teachers if they should decide to teach the module.
FRS Czech Scroll Group
David Rose 07947 030026
Photos taken by Peter Viner
Czech Scrolls Service, Shabbat Shuvah, 27th September 2014
At this year’s Czech Scroll Service our guest speaker was Laura Marks, Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies.
Laura gave an inspiring and thought provoking talk about the recent submission from The BOD to the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission. The Commission are currently considering all the submissions.
Visit to the Memorial Scrolls Trust Museum on 11 May 2014
25 Members of FRS attended a private viewing of the Memorial Scrolls Trust Museum at Kent House on Sunday morning 11th May 2014. The visit was set up as a fundraising exercise to help the Trust to mark its 50th anniversary by endowing a number of educational initiatives. Each synagogue with a Czech Memorial Scroll on permanent loan from the MST was asked to raise £2,000 towards their target of £2m. By a strange coincidence the funds raised by FRS on the day amounted to exactly £2,000 – bershert as they say!
In addition to the tour of the museum by trustees Evelyn Friedlander, Cynthia Landes and Jane Derriey FRS visitors were shown some videos of the work of the Trust. To mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary David Rose showed a video of the work done by the FRS Czech Scroll Group over the past 15 years, which can be viewed by clicking this link.
FRS have, on permanent loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust, a Torah scroll from the Czech town of Uhrineves. Below you will see a photo taken in 2000 of our Rabbi Emeritus, Jeffrey Newman holding our Uhrineves Scroll.
“You Shall Go To The Ball” Our Memorial Scroll from Uhrineves participates in 50th Anniversary Commemorative Service at Kent House, Knightsbridge
Brian Humphreys carrying the FRS Czech scroll. Photograph: Frank Dabba Smith
Czech Memorial Scrolls Commemorative Service
by Geoffrey Cantor
At the regular Shabbat service we are used to seeing a procession with one Torahscroll. On occasions, the procession is augmented by a second scroll. Now imagine a procession with not one, not two, but seventy scrolls. Some large, some small, some were adorned with remonim, yad and breastplate, some without silverware. Some were covered in traditional sombre red or blue clothes, while others sported ingenious modern designs. Unusually, too, the scrolls were accompanied by the adagietto from the 5th symphony, which Mahler had written as a love song for Alma, his future wife. This extended procession took more than ten minutes to complete its route, before the scrolls and their bearers were amassed in front of the ark at the Westminster Synagogue. From where I was seated I could see a sea of bobbing brightly coloured sifrei Torah.
The occasion for this unique event, which took place on Sunday, 9 February 2014, was the 50th anniversary of the arrival of 1564 scrolls at the Westminster Synagogue. Before the war these scrolls had been used by Jewish communities throughout Czechoslovakia, but following the Nazi annexation in 1938–9 and the subsequent deportation of the country’s Jews, the scrolls had been collected together and were housed in a disused synagogue in Prague. In 1964 a deal was struck with the cash-strapped communist government to purchase the scrolls and bring them to England. Since then the Memorial Scrolls Trust has lovingly repaired the scrolls and loaned them to Jewish communities throughout the world.
Not only had these scrolls been distributed throughout the world but they now converged again on Westminster to mark this 50th anniversary. Some of the scrolls were accompanied by several members of their host communities. Thus in the hall at Westminster there was a sense of international solidarity and, at the same time, a recognition that, while the scrolls had enriched so many active Jewish communities worldwide, they were reminders of the tragic loss of Czechoslovak Jewry. For example, the FRS Czech scroll came originally from the Jewish community of Uhříněves, near Prague, which had been deported to Terezin 71 years ago, on the first day of RoshHashanah 5703.
On the day of the commemorative service the FRS Czech scroll travelled but a short distance from Finchley to Westminster and was carried in the procession by Brian Humphreys. Some of the other scrolls travelled much further; the one used by the Dublin Progressive Congregation crossed the Irish Sea and at least a dozen scrolls crossed the Atlantic, from such places as Vancouver, Camp Pendleton (California), San Antonio (Texas) and Needham (Massachusetts). (I wondered whether each of these scrolls had taken up a passenger seat or been consigned to the aircraft’s hold.)
An extremely poignant commemorative service followed the procession of the scrolls. The history of the scrolls was recalled and several speakers reflected on their significance for present-day Jewry. Thus Evelyn Friedlander emphasised that “The scrolls are not only a reminder of the atrocities committed against our brothers and sisters in Europe, but also help us with our renewed mission:
- To Remember the Czech communities before the Holocaust,
- To Challenge us to confront prejudice and hatred, [and]
- To Inspire us into action to commit to a Jewish life and education, and build bridges across communities.