For more information about the recovery of Czech Torah scrolls after World War II, click here:
For more information about the Pinkas Synagogue, click here:
Our Memorial Torah
Congregation Beth El is privileged to be entrusted with Czech Memorial Torah Scroll #273, which was written about 1850. This Torah was catalogued by the Jewish Museum in Prague with No.48889 and is from the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague in the Czech Republic. However, it is likely that it originated in another community of which we have no records. It was first allocated to Temple Micah in in Pennsylvania in 1990, under the auspices of Rabbi Robert Alper, and was later transferred to our congregation.
Through the generosity of the Duboff family, our Memoorial Torah has been installed in a custom-made display case mounted in our sanctuary. The Hebrew inscription on the display case reads "Adonai li v'lo ira", which comes from the last verse of Adon Olam. It means, "Adonai is with me, I shall not fear".
We are planning a community dedication of the new display, as well as an annual Shabbat service where we read from the memorial torah, remember its origin, and reflect on our responsibilities for Jewish life now and in the future. (See below for a report about the Holocaust Torah Dedication.)
The Nazis collected gold and silver ornaments, ceremonial objects, and Torah scrolls from towns all over Europe. A group of Czechoslovakian Jews was forced to arrange and catalogue the items which had been assembled in Prague. After the war, the Communist Government of Czechoslovakia released the Torahs scrolls.
In 1964, the Memorial Scrolls Committee of Westminster Synagogue in London arranged for the shipment of 1564 scrolls to the Synagogue, where they were catalogued and repaired and restored when possible. Each Torah was given a numbered brass plaque to identify its origin.Scrolls that could not be made fit for synagogue use were sent to religious and educational institutions as solemn memorials. Those that were repaired and could be used in religious service were sent to fulfill requests of synagogues all over the world in return for a contribution toward restoration expenses.
The Memorial Scrolls Trust, a non-profit organization in the United Kingdom, plans to continue to enhance their website so it becomes "a repository of all knowledge concerning the 1564 scrolls, the Jewish history of the towns they came from, the Jews of those towns, their fate, survivors stories, and photos. More information about the Memorial Scrolls Trust is available on their website.
Holocaust Torah Dedication
May 11, 2019
The day of the Dedication was one of the first truly beautiful spring days in Bennington. It was fitting that we gathered in the shul to honor the Torah that had been through so much, and had traveled so far, before it landed in Congregation Beth El. The sanctuary was full when Trustee Jeff Teitel stood at the podium to welcome everyone. He gave a special nod to the Memorial Torah Committee, visiting dignitaries, and clergy.
Oren Gradus, a tenor with the Metropolitan Opera Company and the son of Ari and Diana Gradus, came to Bennington for the day to sing two arias from Nabucco -- Tu Sul Labbro and Oh, Chi Piange -- by Guiseppe Verdi. It tells the story of the Israelites, within the walls of the great Temple of Solomon, fervently praying to God for protection against the invading Babylonian army led by Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar), King of Babylon. The Israeli High Priest, Zaccaria, enters the room with a Babylonian hostage -- the young daughter of Nabucco, named Fenena.
Ellie Roden honored the artist Joachim Weingart, who was a victim of the holocaust. A painting of Weingart’s was donated to Beth El and hangs in the social hall. Artist Ari Gradus donated his painting, entitled Faith, which was used on the cover of the program, in honor of the dedication. It, too, hangs in the social hall.
Rabbi Micah Becker-Klein asked Lance Wang to carry the Memorial Torah to the Bima and then invited everyone to file by to have a close look at our reason for gathering. Prayerful songs were sung by all, and then the Rabbi held a short Havdalah service as sunset was approaching.