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Our Holocaust Memorial Torah

Bethesda Jewish Congregation is a proud guardian of one of 1,564 Torah scrolls which, having been gathered for storage during World War II, survived the communities that owned them before the Shoah.

Scroll # 143, from the town of Boskovice located in Moravia, Czech Republic, is on permanent loan to Bethesda Jewish Congregation from the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust in London. The scroll is over 165 years old and arrived at BJC in 1971.

Boskovice (also known as Boskowitz) was home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the province of Moravia. On March 19, 1942, the entire Jewish population of the town was deported and/or executed by the Nazis. Only 14 Jews are known to have survived. A descendent of one surviving family, Charles Ticho, visited BJC in 2005 and read from this Sefer Torah, one of only four that remain intact from the town.

This Torah is very fragile, with holes where vermin gnawed on the sheepskin, faded print in many places, and with a few missing sections. The congregation still lovingly reads from the scroll on Yom HaShoah and on, or near, the anniversary of Kristallnacht. With over 165 years of service, we consider it the oldest member of our congregation and honor the memory of the Jewish community of the town each time we take it from the ark. Each year, our Yizkor Book honors the people and community of Boskovice. BJC’s charge is to keep the memory of the Boskovice and its people alive, caring for and studying their Torah.

In July 2019, a group of BJC members enjoyed the privilege of visiting Boskovice. The highlight of the visit was the restored large synagogue (shown in the photo above), where, it is believed, BJC’s Holocaust Torah resided. A somewhat unique feature of the synagogue is that many of the Shabbat evening prayers are decoratively painted on the walls and ceiling. Some of the familiar prayers were written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew, and there were a few variations in the wording compared to how they appear in most prayer books today. Also, on the ceiling were Shivitim, meditative paintings with mystical images. The rabbis of this synagogue were Kabbalists! The group stood before the Holy Ark in wonder and excitement at the discovery. 

Fri, December 4 2020 18 Kislev 5781