Czech Memorial Torah

CKI is privileged to be home to Czech Memorial Scroll #367, on loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London. It is one of 1,564 Torahs which, along with other ceremonial items, were seized by Nazi officials from synagogues which they desolated throughout the region. These Torah scrolls languished in a Prague warehouse until the 1960’s, when the Westminster Synagogue in London received permission to obtain the scrolls.

This Torah is originally from Louny, Czechoslovakia, and was determined to have been written around the year 1875. The town of Louny had a Jewish community dating back to at least 1254 C.E. In 1942, the Jews of Louny were deported by the Nazis, and the synagogue’s sacred items were sent to the Central Jewish Museum in Prague.

When Congregation Bet Tikva of Raritan Township (Flemington) was founded in 1976, they applied to the Trust for a Torah, as their congregation did not yet have a scroll. At the time, many of their members were Holocaust survivors. The committee granted their request and sent them the Louny Torah.

Members of Bet Tikva commissioned Stanley Miller, a well-known Judaica metal sculpture, to create the Torah’s ornaments. The breastplates Hebrew inscription reads “Thou Shalt Not Forget.” The crown is adorned with six figures, representing the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and the Yad represents the Louny community.

After several years of use, parts of the scroll were no longer readable. A scribe determined that the parchment could not be repaired, but only replaced. Bet Tikva decided to keep the Torah as it was, and gave it a place of honor in their Ark. When Bet Tikva merged with CKI in 2005, they brought the Louny Torah with them. A special case was created to display the Torah, dedicated by the Orloff family in memory of Paul Orloff’s father Möise, who was killed in one of the death camps in 1943.

Today the Louny Torah is on display in our Social Hall where everyone can appreciate and honor it. It is brought out for special occasions such as Simchat Torah and Kol Nidre, when all our Torahs are honored.