Most of my loyal correspondents are aware by now that I will be taking a trip to the Czech Republic later this month as part of a delegation from Peninsula Sinai Congregation to facilitate the return one of our two Czech Torahs under the auspices of the Memorial Scrolls Trust to its ancestral home in Olomouc (pronounced “Ol-oh-motz”). a town about 250 KM SE of Prague.
I spoke at Yom Kippur (to a group of about 75 PSC folks) talking about the “miraculous” nature of this experience for me. I don’t throw around the term “miracle” that freely so for me to use that term must really means something. This whole story has really inspired me and I hope to share my excitement with you as I take this journey. I’d say miraculous for several key reasons:
- The fact that the scrolls even exist today is a truly amazing story. I’ve seen lots of retellings of the story but this is a pretty good one.
- It’s a miracle that the community of Olomouc has managed to reconstitute itself at all. Olomouc’s Jewish community has existed since the 13th century. When the Nazis swept through Eastern and Central Europe, and particularly the Jewish communities of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia (today’s Czech Republic and Slovakia) they decimated most of the communities in their path. Add to that, decades of Communist rule from the 1950’s to the 1990’s where the government was not terribly friendly (a real understatement) to religious communities in general, it’s a miracle that there are any organized Jewish communities in the Czech Republic at all.
- The fact that PSC has two scrolls on permanent loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London, one from the town of Olomouc (Scroll #740) and one from the town of Cheske Budovice. about 125 KM south of Prague. As far as I know, the community of Cheske Budovice, settled in the 14th Century and pretty much ceasing to exist by about 1970. Just this week, I received a copy of the story of the scrolls and how they ended up at Peninsula Sinai from Jayne Bloom (widow of Mel Bloom, one of the founding members of PSC) from the April 1970 edition of one of the local newspapers. Goose Bumps, I’m telling you! I hope to do a side day-trip to Cheske Budovice on the back-end of my trip to Olomouc.
- And if that weren’t enough, just before the Sofer arrived in Foster City to bring the scroll to us for some of the final repairs, there was the little matter of Irma. Hurricane Irma. Yeah that Irma! The Sofer, Rabbi Druin, lives in Miami Beach. As Irma was churning away over Florida, Rabbi Druin (and the scroll) are in his home in Miami behind hurricane shutters riding out the storm. A day or so later, he’s on a plane, with the scroll headed to Foster City. His family is housed at an evacuation shelter at the same time.
Somone once said to me, I wish I could hear the scroll’s stories. From the sofer in Olomouc to surviving the Nazis and the Communist Czech government, to living in a dank warehouse in Prague, to the Westminster Synagogue in London, to a first class seat on Lufthansa, to 47 years in our Aron Kodesh (a nice respite), to Miami, through a hurricane, back to Foster City and now back on a plane to Frankfurt, Prague, another train and finally back home to Olomouc in 2 weeks. How’s THAT for a story? If that parchment could only talk!
It’s a miracle that PSC had Olomouc’s scroll for the last 47 years and we were able to repair it back to Kosher Status and now it’s about ready to “phone home,” to use an ET-ish analogy. Here’s a story in a recent edition of the J Weekly that describes the effort.
So, as I wrote on my Facebook Page a while back, ” I’m humbled and honored to be helping to close this circle on this part of the scroll’s journey through history.”