When we march around with a Torah Scroll in a Synagogue, we call the procession a “Hakafah” (Hakafot (הקפות plural); Hakafah (הקפה singular)—meaning “[to] circle” or “going around” in Hebrew) and there was something rather profound about a 9000+ KM Hakafah with this scroll now nearly completed as we have arrived back in its ancestral home in Olomouc.
PSC has been proud to call this scroll home for 47 years and now we’ve nearly completed the task of escorting it home. Consider for a second how it got to us (the first 200 year Hakafah, if you will?) From the holy hands of some unknown Sofer (ritual scribe) nearly 200 years ago…just let that sink in for a second…200 years means the early 19th Century?… to its home in the Olomouc Synagogue.
To give you an idea of what was lost when the Nazis burned the synagogue to the ground on the first day of the occupation on Olomouc in March, 1939, consider this short video which I just uncovered today (July, 2018)
A short digression here for some history.
- The Jewish settlement in Olomouc is one of the most ancient in this part or Moravia (the Czech Republic).
- July 22, 1454, King Ladislaus the Posthumous issued an edict banning Jews from this region (maybe a good thing he’s “posthumous”?)
- This banishment lasted until the 16th century when Ferdinand 1 allowed the Jews to attend markets but only after paying a special tax.
- 1745 Empress Maria Theresa allowed the Jews to enter Olomouc again. Since that time there has been Jewish settlement in this area.
- Regular Jewish services began here in 1860 and on April 11, 1897 the synagogue was inaugurated. (I am guessing the crowd was huge!)
- March 15, 1939 the Nazi occupation of Olomouc began and their first attention was drawn to this beautiful building which they set ablaze and refused to allow firefighters to fight the fire.
- Today the site is a car park.
So now back to the Hakafah. From Olomouc in 1939 to the Jewish Museum in Prague
to a dank storage warehouse outside of Prague to the Westminster Synagogue in London and the establishment of the Memorial Scrolls Trust, to a Lufthansa first class seat with Mel (Z’L) and Jayne Bloom
to 47 years of use and an honored place in PSC’s Aron Kodesh where I and dozens of other Ba’alei Kriyah (Torah Readers) were honored to read from it.
to Miami in the talented hands of our Sofer Rabbi Druin (surviving Hurricane Irma in September 2017), to Irene’s car, to SFO, carried in
to PSC Member Michael Hayat’s hands in a joyous procession through SFO
I should note here that a Muslim, Feraz Zahid, United Customer Service Supervisor had the honor or carrying it on the plane where our Christian pilot and members of her crew joined us in a joyous rendition of “Etz Hayim” on the plane
To a long flight to Frankfurt with some laughs along the way
To Cantor Doron taking his first steps on German soil with a Torah Scroll in his hands to Prague and now to Olomouc once again, after nearly 78 years where the scroll will be completely repaired and hopefully used here for another 200 years! That’s one heck of Simchat Torah Hakafah! In fact I would say this is really a Second Simchat Torah, if you ask me!
Some live broadcasts from the Olomouc Train Station, aka “The Steve and Doron Show”
and, part two: