We have three Torah scrolls, each with its own unique story.
One scroll came into the congregation's possession early in the life of BKS, our predecessor in Carina. This scroll we call the BKS Scroll.
Another of our scrolls comes from Temple Shalom, Dallas. They gave it to us as part of the celebrations on the occasion of their fiftieth anniversary in 2015, recognising that BOvS was growing and would benefit from their help. Their generosity has created a sister congregation relationship which we greatly value.
The BKS and Dallas Scrolls are the ones used for regular Shabbat and Festival services.
A very special Torah Scroll housed in our Ark at Beit Or v'Shalom Synagogue Brisbane, has travelled a long way from it's original home. It was taken from the town of Loštice (pronounced LOSH-tea-tseh), about 140 miles east of Prague, in Moravia, in the eastern region of the Czech Republic. For more information go to www.memorialscrollstrust.org and read more on the Torah Scrolls saved from destruction during the Nazi occupation. Also see certificate below which is hung on the wall in the entrance to the Synagogue.
Beit Or v'Shalom is proud to provide a home this Torah # 736 of the Westminster Memorial Scroll Collection. This Torah was among more than 2,000 rescued from Nazi pillaging during the Second World War. Its rescuers were among the millions who perished in the Shoah.
History of the Czech Torah Project
In the years after World War II a legend grew that the Nazis had planned to create a museum to an extinct race. This has little foundation in fact. We do know, however, that a devout band of Jews from Prague’s Jewish community worked to bring artifacts and Jewish possessions of all kinds to what had become the Central Jewish Museum in Prague. Here they labored under appalling conditions to preserve what little remained of Jewish communities previously at the mercy of vandals and plunderers. This Jewish initiative was directly responsible for the subsequent conservation of the Scrolls.
The Jewish community hoped it that these treasures would be protected and might one day return to their original homes. All the curators at the Museum were eventually transported to Terezin and Auschwitz. Only two survived and the Czech Jewish community after the war was too depleted to care for them. Their legacy was the catalog of the vast collection in the Museum, eventually to become the Jewish Museum of Prague.
After the war, they were transferred to the ruined synagogue at Michle outside Prague where they remained until 1963. Some fifty congregations re-established themselves in the Czech Republic and were provided with religious artifacts, not necessarily from their own communities. When the Communists took over the government in 1948 Jewish communal life was again stifled and most synagogues were closed. Their possessions went to the newly re-founded Jewish Museum of Prague.
In 1963 Eric Estorick, a London art dealer, was offered the opportunity to purchase the 1,564 Scrolls of the Law, stored by the Museum. Through the generosity of Ralph Yablon, the scrolls were bought and transported to the Synagogue Westminster Synagogue in London and the Memorial Scrolls Trust was established to care for them. The Torahs were then cataloged (ours is MST# 736 shown below) and sent to synagogues worldwide as a symbol of what was destroyed, and as an everlasting reminder that they will never be forgotten.
The Czech Memorial Scrolls Museum was built to keep some of the collection, a permanent memorial to the martyrs from whose synagogues they come; many of them are distributed throughout the world to be memorials everywhere to the Jewish tragedy and to spread light as harbingers of future brotherhood on earth and all of them bear witness to the glory of the holy Name.
The Memorial Scrolls Trust, a U.K. non-profit organization, has recently begun to reach out to synagogues and other institutions who received the Czech scrolls to gather updated information about them.
After fifty years, when most of the Scrolls have found new homes, the Trust is charged with the next phase of its work. It must ensure that those synagogues who have received scrolls are aware of what they have, that they investigate the original homes of the Scrolls or what is left of them, and hand on to the next generation the precious legacy they have acquired.