Our story is starting to see a lot of traction in the media in various forms, so I thought I would use this space to capture some of the press mentions. If you find others, please let me know!
A Radio interview in Czech featuring our friend from Olomouc Petr Papousek
In Czech…IDNES is the largest online/hard copy circulation Czech paper
The rare Torah from the burned synagogue returned to Olomouc after 78 years
October 24, 2017
Seventy-eight years later, the sacred Torah scroll from the end of the 19th century has returned to Olomouc. The local Jewish community used it until the burning of the Olomouc synagogue at the beginning of the Nazi occupation in 1939. After the war, the Communists sold the scroll with hundreds of others abroad.
More about our friend Peter Briess, an Olomouc survivor
Some cool photos at the bottom of the page of the Olomouc Exhibition opening. I’m in a few of them in the crowd, front row left (purple shirt) 😉
A nice history of the Olomouc synagogue building on the Kehilah web site.
This article has a nice mention of our Olomouc story at the end.
Featuring Peter Breiss.
We made the big time in the Israeli Press. I wonder if we got picked up in any other publications? On Su day there was a JTA Reporter from Warsaw present, I was told.
Without getting into all the details, the story was well written and got most of the facts and color right though they did misidentify PSC sort of. The reporter identified us as “Hatzi-Ha-ee Sinai” which is technically correct because “Hatzi-Ha-ee” does mean “Peninsula” in Hebrew but there were also other transliterations like for “United Airlines“. I don’t get it!
In a related posting, the Masorati (Conservative Movement in Israel) posted the following to their FB Page
Peninsula Sinai Congregation
Translated it reads:
A Conservative Synagogue on San Francisco took care of an ancient Torah Scroll from the town of Olomouc. in the Czech Republic after it was smuggled out during the Holocaust. Soon the Czech Congregation grew and asked the American Conservative Torah Scroll (back). Congregation “Half an Island Sinai” (yeah I know that sounds weird but they took the Hebrew idiom for “Peninsula” and used that rather than transliterating “Peninsula”) that watched over the scroll and repaired it and the Rabbi of the COnservative Congregation traveled to return the scroll to it’s original home. United assisted in the transfer of the Torah, placed the scroll in its own seat and with a boarding pass that read Torah/Torah.
This one appeared a few days before the trip and gave some color as to what to expect in Olomouc before we got there.
From the Czech News Agency from a few weeks ago (Thanks Jeff Blutinger and Weslaw)
10/9/17 Czech News Agency 00:00:00
Czech News Agency
Copyright (c) 2017 CZECH News Agency
October 9, 2017
California synagogue returning Torah scroll to Czech Olomouc
A parchment scroll of Torah dating from 1880 will be returned to Olomouc’s prayer room as a permanent loan from the Jewish community in Foster City, California, at the end of October, Petr Papousek, chairman of Olomouc’s Jewish community, has told CTK.
It will be the first Torah returned out of the 1,500 Bohemian and Moravian scrolls that are stored outside the Czech Republic nowadays, Papousek said.
The scroll will be festively installed in the Jewish prayer room on the occasion of the Jewish Culture Days in Olomouc on October 22.
“The return of the Torah to Olomouc is a historic event not only for Olomouc’s Jewish community, but also for the town,” Papousek said.
The scroll had to be restored and the writing had to be repaired professionally. The last letters will be finished just before the scroll’s festive delivery into the prayer room, he added.
After Olomouc’s synagogue was set ablaze at night on March 15, 1939, it was pulled down. The scrolls were gathered in the emerging Central Jewish Museum in Prague at first.
During the turbulent post-WWII period, the museum was nationalised and the scrolls were moved to a former synagogue in Prague’s Michle neighbourhood.
In 1963, under the Communist regime, the torahs from Michle and other scrolls, a total of 1,564 pieces, were sold to the congregation of the Westminster Synagogue in London, which established the Memorial Scrolls Trust to preserve and restore them.
The trust lends them to Jewish congregations across the world, particularly to the USA.
The Jewish Culture Days are to take place on October 19-29 and will include an exhibition on the vanished Olomouc synagogue, an international conference on changes in the life of Jews, a theatre performance and a lecture by Israeli photographer Yosaif Cohain among other events.
This year, the Jewish Culture Days are dedicated to the 120th anniversary of the consecration of the Olomouc synagogue and the 150th anniversary of the birth of Berthol Oppenheim, the town’s rabbi who was murdered in the Treblinka wartime extermination camp.
More from IDNES The Czech Republic’s largest daily online and print circulation newspaper.
Of course most everyone saw Vic Lee on the ABC 7 Local News the day we took off from SFO. My friend Greg Cecil said he saw a version of this story on his local newscast in Columbia, MO but not sure if it got picked up nationally on ABC or other TV outlets? Any sightings people?
Random sighting in the UK Press makes me famous on two continents! 😉
Nice picture of all of us on the plane to Frankfurt. United really rolled out the red carpet for us. Thanks Michael Hayat, and Andrea Hiller from United PR!
How’s your Czech? This is from The Czech Republic’s largest circulation daily. I tried to find a hard copy in Prague and in Olomouc but I struck out. Apparently this is partly online and partly print copy. This appeared in the Olomouc version of IDNES.
Just gotta throw this one in as a ROTFL moment from one of our Flight Tracker groupies, Michael Hayat (we had several, to be fair but this was the best and nearly gave Doron and I a spit-take at 37K feet over Manitoba! Good one Michael! 😁
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our PSC Go Fund Me campaign that helped to make the Torah repairs possible in the first place. Thank you Donors!
A little back to the future action from 1970 when the scrolls were originally brought to PSC from from London and the Scrolls Trust.
From the “Burlingame Advance-Star” (anyone remember that paper?) from April 7, 1970 featuring founding PSC Member Mel Bloom Z’L (Jayne Bloom and his widow who sent me copies of these stories.) Jayne and Mel carried both Czech scrolls to California from the Westminster Synagogue in London in 1970. Our synagogue was just 2 years old at the time and meeting in San Mateo. This helps fill in a couple of holes in the story!
Our own J weekly got the ball rolling on the coverage and I’m told they were very excited to cover it! Thanks Dan Pine, News Editor of the J!
About the Olomouc Museum Exhibit we viewed last week in Olomouc.
Another random mention.
Rabbi Corey gets a shout out in his hometown Kansas City newspaper. Mazel Tov!
Another follow on story from IDNES, the largest online daily in the Czech Republic. Plug in to Google Translate to get a serviceable translation. Mostly focusing on Sunday’s dedication ceremonies.
From Olomouc’s Jewish Paper Chayenu
This is our life – HEM CHAJEJNU 18 Review Bulletin 22 23 Our Life Volume 9 / Number X. List of the Jewish Communities Olomouc November 2017 On Sunday, 2nd day of the month of the Cheshvan of 5778, corresponding on 22 October 2017, with We will be blessed, we, the Jewish community of Olomouc, hereby accept our Torah, registered by the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London, England under number # 740. In cooperation with this organization, the Peninsula Sinai community, Foster City, California, and Sofer on site, Miami, Florida, we celebrate this historic moment of returning our Torah back to its place of origin. Let this moment consecrate memories of the members of the Jewish community in Olomouc who are no longer among us, those who built this community and all those who died in Shoah. Let the light of this Torah, inspired by our ancestors’ links, shine ever brighter and may make our community elevated and show us the way to the future. By accepting this Torah scroll, we, the Jewish community in Olomouc, we accept the commandments and traditions embodied in our Torah. We and all of our community will strive to continue in Jewish life as those who profess: Šema Jisrael Ado-Elo-hejno Ado-nej Echad! By completing this Torah scroll, we connect to the traditional exclamation: Chazak, chazak, venitchazek! Let the glory of the legacy of our past strengthen our present efforts so that we can bravely walk towards the future
Very personal – very personal! Impossible to become a Reality Impossible to become a reality, I would briefly describe the return of the Olomouc scroll of the Torah to the Motherhood. When I began to correspond with the Westminster Synagogue and the Memorial Scrolls Trust more than two years ago, I only hoped that my intention would succeed. But I thought it would be a pity to strike back the return of our “Torah” scroll when I found out where it was. This, which only a few members of our ZOO believed, turned out to be a tangible act. It was a series of emails, phone calls and personal meetings with Jeffrey Ohrenstein in London and New York, regardless of my costs. When I did everything “pre-cooked”, I joined Petra Papouška as the boss of our ZOO who made this difficult task to the winning end. I believe that not only we, but also our descendants and followers, will use this scroll of the Torah and will never leave Olo-mouk again. I can be proud of the fact that the scroll of the Torah, which has seen my grandparents, father and other relatives on a regular basis in today’s magnificent synagogue today, will continue to radiate the importance of the past with today and the tomorrow of our village. Roman Gronsky I was perhaps the only one who went to the former synagogue … … Peter Briesse said, who had come to welcome the Olomouc scroll of the Torah from the United States. “It was very, very moving. After all, I went to the synagogue even when the scroll was used in it … I was when, in 1938/39, the Rabbi Oppenheim read this Torah. I was a seven-year-old boy. For me, it is especially important that this Torah returns to Olomouc. I welcome her at home and I wish this commune many years of happiness, safety and success. “Amen. Let us add that in the Olomouc synagogue they had the wedding of Peter Briesse’s parents. Their wedding ceremony was held in the Olomouc Synagogue on June 29, 1929. In 1931, his parents, Hans Briess and Else Schulhof, the son of Peter (see photograph here) and in 1936 Hana’s daughter. On the occasion of their wedding, Berlold Oppenheim, a former rabbi from Olomouc, wrote a letter to the bride Else, who has Peter Briess in his archive. And since these days we are commemorating both the Anniversary of the dedication of the Olomouc Synagogue and the anniversary of the birth of Rabbi Oppenheim, let us introduce here the second part of Oppenheim’s letter (the whole text of the letter with further information can be found in Chajejn 2012/11), the bride, this time in translation Mrs. Hany Mayer: Letter to the Bride “As a rabbi, I give you a prayer book, as a memorial to this festive moment, for the 90th birthday of my dear mother, and for the special recognition of the charitable action of your highly respected and honorable father whose life in the field of genuine Jewish love for neighbors and charity in favor of those affected by poverty and oppression, be also a pre-order for your house. Let your house be the source of Jewish faith, Jewish spirit and Jewish love for your neighbor. Let your father’s merit be God’s blessing for your path of life and the foundation of your continual happiness. Let the prayers of this book in which you turn to the Almighty always be prayers of praise and thanksgiving for the nothingness-disturbed happiness that you will experience with the man of your choice. This is my wish and my prayer. Dr. B. Openheimer Rabbi Rabbi Moshe Druin, the driver who corrected the olo-moss scroll on the occasion of the Torah’s deposition in Aaron ha-kodesh, said this: I am very honored to have repaired this Torah and that I may be the messenger of the Jewish people. But we all know that the Torah without people does not mean anything. But the Jewish nation without the Torah … does not even know anything. B-h, the Jews and the Torah are single. Jeffrey Ohrenstein Memorial Scroll Trust London “In 1964, 1564 Torah sculptures were bought from the Czech Communist Government and transported to London, where our Memorial Scroll Trust was founded to care for them. Until then, these scrolls lay in an inappropriate, damp synagogue where their condition has continued to deteriorate. And no doubt if you do
Very personal – very personal! were not saved at that time, many of them would be lost. It is an incredible honor and joy that we can bring this Torah back to Olomouc. “Page 5 I do not often happen to you … I wish you long luck and joy with this Torah that came to you. My lady had tears in my eyes … said Daniel Meron, Ambassador of the State of Israel to the Czech Republic. His wife’s family, Mrs. Jill, has its roots in Olomouc. “As an Ambassador of the State of Israel, I consider my duty to participate in similar events of Jewish life here. Rabbi Moshe Druin finished the Torah scroll on Sunday morning, and I, along with others, had the honor to take part in it. “The second Simchat Tora Steve Lipman, a member of the American congregation of Peninsula Sinai who accompanied the Torah to Olomouc, noted this festive moment on his blog: “The Torah came to the synagogue from the back in the hands of Rabbi Helfanda. Our Torah, Torah Memorial Scroll Trust and now: The Olomouc Torah. Her hands were stretched to touch her, she was carried several times around the womb (Olomouc practice is orthodox). Then she was placed in the vault, where she would wait until Sunday, for the last corrections of the last letters from the driver Mosheo Druin. Torah scroll written in 1880, a scroll that survived the Nazi persecution, which nearly destroyed the Jewish communities in this country. A scroll that has survived Communist persecution. Svitek, who had been honored in our Aaron Ha-Kodesh for 47 years, and from whom I had the honor to read before he became righteously unfit and needed repair. The Svitk, which was transported by 9,000 km by plane, by train, by car … was now returned to his original home to remain there for good. Let’s think about it … and realize: It has never happened before! “When the Torah was finished I was crying. And this is not happening to me often, “said Petr Papoušek, chairman of the Jewish community in Olomouc. “I hope that the return of this Torah scroll will bring new energy and enthusiasm for our village.” Peter Briess, on the left, on completing the letter of the Olomouc scroll together with rabbi Moshe Druin, who has returned our kosher status to his Torah by his work. Upon completing the correction of individual letters, he had a story about the meaning of the letter and the word that was repaired for everyone. This only deepened the intimacy and personal dimension that the Torah-rite had in our village. Thank you! At the top you can see a certificate that was nominally received by anyone who attended this ceremony. There is a box for the name, but also for a letter that has been fixed.
Very personal – very personal! Mrs. Dreiseitl (second from left) when writing the Torah. From left K. Jurečková from Prague, from Mrs. Sidon’s right My experiences of the Torah Torah – how simple the word for uninitiated. But for us who know what this word means, it is something extraordinary. In our village, after eighty years, the Torah returned from California … It was a long journey, but thanks to Mr Gronsky and our President, Mr. Papoušek, he managed to get the Torah back. It started for me on Friday Sabbath worship and a common sitting at a gala dinner. The premises of our Municipality have already been pervaded by something strange – expectation, tension. At the end of the liturgy, our Torah was brought to the chapel for the singing and applause of all those present. On Sunday after the morning worship, the preparations for Torah correspondence began. Of all the present I felt some internal tension. I myself felt something indescribable … it was luck and joy of something unrepeatable. I have to admit that I kept thinking of all those who could not be present, but trust me, I tried to feel the special atmosphere of their souls as well. In my imagination, I saw that my grandfather, who was involved in the preparation of refreshments for so many people, touched this scroll. Perhaps they had to sleep there. It’s all your big thanks to you. You did not make it easy, but you knew how to deal with it and you managed it to one. Once again, I thank you all, and if the amazing atmosphere you have created remains in the memories of most of you present, then believe that your efforts are worth the effort. Hana Dreiseitlová Alois Wellner 1898 – 1966, Coming from seven children, grew up in a religion-based family. In Olomouc he married Anna Schubrt, and in 1926 the only daughter of Alice, my mother, was born to them. In the war years he was imprisoned and finished in Terezin. After the war he was redeemed for the reconstruction of the Jewish community in Olomouc. From my mother I know he taught both religion and Hebrew and also taught R. Daniel Mayer in the Torah Hachnasat sefer Tor in Olomouc On Sunday, October 22, at the invitation of the Chairman of the Olomouc Philosophical Orthodox Church, Mr. Petr Papoušek, attended an exceptional festival of the Torah scroll aron hakodeše in ŽOO prayer. Of course, everyone present at this unique festivities among members of the Olomouc or other Jewish communities in the Czech Republic, as well as precious guests from the USA, Israel and Switzerland, all rejoiced at the reality bordering on the miracle that the scroll of the Torah, which had been deposited since 1880 in the aron ha-codes of the Olomouc Synagogue, which was destroyed by the Nazis in 1939 and subsequently demolished, returned to its home village after a long and adventurous journey. For me, Alois Wellner, the great-grandson of the chairman of the FBI in Olomouc in 1913-18, Friedrich Fischer and his wife Bertha, born Briess. When writing these lines I still have a strange feeling. This experience will remain in my memory for a lifetime. The very moment that I, the inordinate member of the Oracle, had a letter to the Torah, was happy for me. However, behind this act was the enormous efforts of Mr Gronsky and Mr Papoušek, which I have already appointed, but also efforts at home. I have the most beautiful memories. When he lived here, I was looking forward to learning when I came to school … Later he worked in Olomouc as a cantor. He died on September 23, 1966, on the eve of Jom Kipur when he worshiped his heart when he was singing – it was a heavy heart attack. Although he was immediately assisted by two doctors present, one of them was Mr. Gronsky’s father, they were unable to revive their grandfather. He was a very good man, and I will never forget him. From the memories of Hana Dreiseitlová’s granddaughter The owner of the malted house in Friedrich Friedrich Friedrich Fischel managed the affairs of the Olomouc village from 1913 to 1918, and from 1908 to 1918 he also worked in the city council
From this week’s J Weekly.
Sofer On-site links to my blog and the, JWeekly Story on SOS’s home page.
Taube Philanthropies established a matching grant to help us repair the Olomouc Torah Scroll.
Another article in Czech.
Someone posted the Twitter feed of the Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic.
We made the big time in United Airlines Hemispheres Magazine in the December issue. Check out page 14!
And there was this heartwarming story from Jenny and Corey’s hometown Dallas Newspaper.
Doron and Jocelyn were initially interviewed in September before the trip and it includes recollections by Peter Breiss, a pre-war resident of Olomouc who came back specially for the event from London.
Good memories from our friends in Olomouc. Idnes is the largest daily circulation online (and print) publication in the Czech Republic.
Some more pre-trip coverage:
“The Czech Republic will obtain from the Jewish congregation Peninsula Sinai Congregation from the California city Foster City, which lies near San Francisco.
It’s a historical milestone. It will be the first time that one of the Czech scrolls returns permanently back to the Czech Republic.”
IDNES is the largest online circulation paper in the Czech Republic
A rare Torah from the late 19th century will return to Olomouc after decades. In March 1939, the local synagogue burned down, which Nazis served as a pretext for its demolition. In the past 78 years, the sacred scroll was wandering around the world, from Prague to London and California after the communist sale…
The sacred scroll ended first in Prague as well as another thousand parchments from Czech and Moravian Jewish communities. The Nazis are sváželi here with other sacral objects to the just-emerging central Jewish Museum.
Apparently after the war, however, Olomouc Torah lost. The museum liturgical needs continued disperse renewed Jewish communities, but things have not often returned to their original places…
It is probably the first permanent return of the Disappeared Torah to the Czech Republic
He is convinced that this is a historical event not only for the Jewish community, but also for the whole of Olomouc. In addition, it is the first Torah in the Czech Republic, which returns from abroad to its original place after the war.
“Several times different foreign communities arrived in the Czech Republic for a few days with their Torah, which had a similar destiny as the Olomouc. But, according to my information, this is the first time that such Torah is coming back permanently and will be used by the same community as before the war, which is symbolic, “he stresses.
The ceremonial return of Torah to the seat of the Olomouc Jewish community is scheduled for Sunday, 22. October.
“It had to be restored her background and a professional scribe-soferem-professionally repaired font. The last letters will be written immediately before the ceremonial by Torah to prayer rooms,