Our Czech Holocaust Torah Scroll

Temple Israel's Holocaust Scroll from Dvur Kralove, Czech Republic
Temple Israel’s Holocaust Scroll from Dvur Kralove, Czech Republic

Czech Torah #355

At Temple Israel we are deeply connected to our Jewish narrative and we are humbled to be able to carry Torah “l’dor v’dor – from generation to generation.” We model the importance of Torah in our lives as we live its values each day. We also cherish the “Sifrei Torah – the Scrolls of Torah” that we hold in our holy ark. We are honoured to have on loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust of Westminister Synagogue in England, a Torah from the Czech Republic that has survived the Holocaust.

DVur Kralove synagogue
DVur Kralove synagogue

Rabbi Powell originally arranged to have a Torah on loan to our congregation in 1968. Scroll #132 came from the district of Ceske Budejovice in Bohemia. It was written in 1870. Tragically, it was destroyed in the fire at our first synagogue on James Street in 1972. A portion of that scroll was saved, framed and hangs on the wall at our new synagogue on Prince of Wales Drive.

Rabbi Gerber arranged to receive a replacement scroll shortly thereafter. We were delighted to accept on loan scroll #355. This scroll originated from Dvur Kralove a village in Bohemia, around the year 1850. Sadly, the synagogue in Dvur Kralove was abandoned in 1949 and demolished in 1966. Scrolls from this community are also found in New Jersey, New York, California and New Zealand.

Temple’s Czech scroll is a prized possession. From a young age and onwards we teach our congregants about the travels of this Torah and the honour we have to care for it. While it is not in everyday use, we dance with the Torah on Simchat Torah, we chant its words over holidays, we read from it on occasions connected to the Holocaust and our B’nai Mitzvah students are taught to appreciate that as they read these words, they carry the traditions of our lost souls of Eastern Europe.

Cover of Thus We Remember
Cover of Thus We Remember written by Rabbi Norman and Naomi Patz, Temple Sholom of West Essex, NJ

Thus We Remember: A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Dvur Králové and the Story of One of Its Torah Scrolls, written by Naomi Patz and Rabbi Norman Patz, was published on Yom HaShoah 5765 (May 2005) on the 50th anniversary of Temple Sholom of West Essex and the 30th anniversary of the congregation receiving the Torah in permanent trust from the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London. The addendum, published in draft form in 2015 for the 60th anniversary of the congregation, the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the liberation of the concentration camps, is an update of events and information relative to the scroll and the creation of a monument to the Dvur Kralove Synagogue which was built in 1890, abandoned after the Holocaust and demolished in 1966.

Rabbi Norman Patz
Rabbi Emeritus Norman R. Patz, Temple Sholom of West Essex, NJ

Rabbi Norman R. Patz, Rabbi Emeritus from Temple Sholom of West Essex, NJ, spoke at Temple Israel’s Shabbat Morning service on April 10, 2021. He told the story of the Jewish community of Dvar Kralove, in the Bohemia District of the Czech Republic, and how the torah scrolls from the synagogue were saved and have been loaned to five synagogues including Temple Israel and Temple Sholom. Rabbi Patz and his wife Naomi published a history of the community in 2005 which subsequently led to their participation in the creation and dedication of a monument to the Jewish community of Dvar Kralove in 2008.

DVur Kralove memorial
DVur Kralove memorial

A Torah Scroll from DVŮR KRÁLOVÉ

Rabbi Norman R. Patz

Text of a presentation made to Temple Israel, Ottawa, Ontario, April 10, 2021

Shabbat shalom! Thank you, Rabbi Mikelberg, for inviting me to speak to you about the Torah scroll from Dvůr Kralove in your synagogue’s ark. Having that scroll puts your congregation in an exclusive club, one with only six members, each of which is a trustee for a Torah scroll from the destroyed Jewish community of Dvůr Kralove nad Labem in the northeastern region of the Czech Republic. I am here because my congregation in New Jersey is one. The others are in Newton, Massachusetts; Geneva, New York; Claremont College, in California; and in Wellington, New Zealand.

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