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Our Holocaust Torah - Sefer Torah #421

Our Holocaust Torah: A Sacred Trust

Temple Israel is blessed as a Congregation to be entrusted with the care of a treasure from the ashes of the Holocaust – a Czech Holocaust Torah. It is beautifully adorned in our Sanctuary Aron Kodesh (Ark),with sterling silver breastplate and Torah crowns. The yad (pointer) was the original with the Torah.

What is the story of the sacred scrolls known as Holocaust Torahs? 

When the Nazis stormed through Europe during World War II, including what is now the Czech Republic, they collected thousands of Jewish artifacts from the synagogues they destroyed, as the story goes, to display them as relics in a “museum to an extinct race.”  While some experts argue this purpose, our member’s research via the Jewish Museum of Prague confirms this finding. Many of these items were catalogued, including more than a thousand Torahs that Jewish curators in Bohemia and Moravia hoped to save. They were found after the war in a damp, deserted warehouse in the former Michel Synagogue in Prague.

In 1964, 1,564 scrolls were sent to London to the Westminister Synagogue. These represented hundreds of destroyed communities, wiped out by the Nazis. Through the efforts of Temple Israel leadership in the early 1990s, Temple Israel received one of these sacred scrolls in trust; meaning, it is on permanent loan to us. Periodically, we must have complete documentation to send back to the Trust.  In the past 10 or so years the Trust has requested two such documentations.

Our Holocaust Torah, Sefer Torah # 421, is from the town of Dobris, Czechoslovakia. Dobris, chartered in 1569, is a town in Bohemia, 40 km SW of Prague and 15 km NW of the district town of Pribram. The Jewish community traces its roots to 1645 as a Chevra Kaddisha (Jewish Burial Society). The synagogue, built in 1904, was an example of neo-Romanesque architecture and was the center of a small Jewish community. Located at the corner of the street Ceskoslovenske Armany, west of the public square, the main wall faced north, which was unique, except in Czechoslovakia. Services were held until World War II. By 1942, many had already started moving from small communities to larger cities, as the synagogue membership by then had diminished to 129 people. How is this known? Through research into the Holocaust Extermination Records of Jewish Victims of the Town of Dobris, Czechoslovakia 1942 from the Jewish Museum in Prague, the names of the Jews of Dobris were documented as those who were part of the 1942 transport to Auschwitz, Terezin and Treblinka. 

Today, the building that once housed the synagogue partially exists. It has been converted into a civic cultural center and houses a concert and exhibition hall and library.

For more information about the Memorial Scrolls and the Memorial Scrolls Trust, please visit

Fri, September 29 2023 14 Tishrei 5784