MST #852, currently housed at Main Line Reform Temple Beth Elohim in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, is from an unknown town in Bohemia and Moravia.
The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was a partially-annexed territory of Nazi Germany that was established on March 16, 1939, after the German occupation of the Czech lands. The protectorate’s population was mostly ethnic Czech.
The Jewish population of Bohemia and Moravia (118,000 according to the 1930 census) was virtually annihilated, with over 75,000 murdered. Of the 92,199 people classified as Jews by German authorities in the Protectorate as of 1939, 78,154 (85%) were murdered in the Holocaust. Many Jews emigrated after 1939. Eight thousand survived at the Terezín concentration camp, which was used for propaganda purposes as a showpiece. There had been at least 350 synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia, but by the end of the war more than sixty had been destroyed. After only three years of freedom there was a Communist coup on 27th February 1948 which, amongst other things, took over the Jewish Museum and warehouses, subsequently transferring some 1800 Torah Scrolls to a damp warehouse that had once been the sixteenth century Michle synagogue.
In 1963, Chimen Abramsky, Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College, London to examined the scrolls in Prague and reported on their authenticity and condition, on receipt of which Ralph Yablon generously agreed to fund the purchase of 1564 scrolls that arrived in London in February 1964. Over several months, a team of sofrim (scribes) examined the scrolls to determine those which were kosher, could be repaired and/or restored, and which were in such a poor condition could only be used as part of a memorial.
The MST #852 Torah was brought to Main Line Reform Temple by Marion and Bernard Wilen (z”l) in honor of their 60th wedding anniversary. Three of Wilens’ grandsons read from the scroll when they became B’nai Mitzvah at MLRT and the Torah is paraded around the sanctuary each Simchat Torah, ensuring that the legacy MST #852 endures, although the unknown community it once served is no more.
The Memorial Scrolls Trust has allocated Czech scrolls to synagogues and organisations around the world. The Czech scrolls are survivors and silent witnesses. They represent not only the lost communities of Bohemia and Moravia, but all those who perished in the Shoah.
To learn more about The Memorial Scrolls Trust, please click here.