Thursday, July 17, 2008

USA & UK Syngogues Research Kladno (Czech Rep) Torah Scrolls

US & UK Synagogues Research Kladno (Czech Rep.) Torah Scrolls

More than forty years after the establishment of the Czech Scrolls Memorial Trust in London, congregations holding these Holocaust survivors continue to learn about the scrolls and the history and fate of the communities that owned and used them. These investigations can lead to close ties between Jews and Czech (non-Jewish) communities.

Since they were “rescued” in the early 1960s, the Trust has successfully restored and distributed over 1500 Torah scrolls collected in Prague during the Nazi occupation. In recent months, two congregations in the US and the UK have collaborated with a Christian community in Kladno, Czech Republic, to learn more about the history of two scrolls which came from that town, and to commemorate the hundreds of Jews of Kladno who were murdered.

Congregation Beth El in Fairfield, Connecticut has one of the memorial scrolls. The Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue (NPLS) in Northwood, Middlesex, UK has a portion of another scroll, as well as scrolls from Kolin and Trebon. Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, who is retiring this year as Rabbi of NPLS, initiated in 1974 the NPLS connection with (then) Czechoslovak Jewry and has led many visits by groups to the Czech and Slovak Republics since the Velvet Revolution. (See: He and his congregation have been active in efforts to restore Jewish sites in Kolin and elsewhere. However, as described in a recent article by NPLS member Michel Heppner, the Kladno Scroll at NPLS never quite got its due, and connections with that town were not made by congregation.

This year, however, Dr. Ellin Yassky (known perhaps to my readers for the beautiful Jewish art books she has edited for publisher Hugh Lauter Levin), a member of Congregation Beth El in Fairfild, Connecticut (USA), took the leadership role in researching her congregation’s Kladno Scroll. Fairfield and Middlesex congregations are working together, and they have linked with the Hussite congregation in Kladno, which owns and uses the former synagogue as its church.

[In all, forty Czech synagogues are now churches, mostly Hussite. For a list see: Survey of Historic Jewish Monuments in the Czech Republic by Samuel Gruber and Phyllis Myers (eds.), 39-40, at: (under "reports")]

Together the three congregations have pieced together something of the history of the scrolls – and more importantly have begun joint commemorative and education programs about the Kladno Jewish community, its history and its fate. A commemorative service was held at the Hussite Church in Kladno last Christmas, when members of the Fairfield Congregation visited on their way to Israel. Last month, on June 6th, the Fairfield scroll was re-dedicated in a ceremony attended by Czech diplomats, American elected officials, the mayor and archivist of Kladno, and the secretary of the Kladno Hussite Church. The guest speaker was Ela Weissberger, a Terezin survivor and a Holocaust education advocate. The Fairfield County Children's Chorale sang songs by Czech composer and Holocaust survivor Franticek Domazlicky.

For further information, please contact Congregation Beth El, 1200 Fairfield Woods Road, Fairfield, CT. 203-374-5544/ or Ellin Yassky, Director of the Kladno Torah Research and Restoration Project at

Also see Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust at:

On the NPLS Scroll see:

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