Repair, Restore, Rededicate: Kol Emeth’s Historical Czech Torah Scroll

Kol Emeth is the custodian of a very special Torah scroll which is over 300 years old. This Torah was rescued from Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust, saved by the London Jewish community, and brought to Kol Emeth in 1970. It is the sole survivor of Horaj-dovitzah, the Jewish community from which it came.

Only in the last decade did we learn more about the Czech history of this scroll, thanks to www.memorialscrollstrust.org. The leadership of the Prague Jewish community before and during the Second World War, after long negotiations with the Nazis, rescued over 100,000 Jewish ritual books and objects from provincial Czech towns and collected them in the Central Jewish Museum of Prague. In 1964, the Westminster Synagogue of London arranged to purchase 1,564 of the surviving Torah scrolls. By 1970, Rabbi Ben Segal of Kol Emeth had arranged for this Torah to be brought to Kol Emeth.

Our sofer, Rabbi Moshe Druin, works to repair our rescued sefer Torah.
Our sofer, Rabbi Moshe Druin,
works to repair our rescued sefer Torah.

Our sofer (scribe) discovered that our Torah carries a now-lost writing style that places it within a Sephardic Kabbalistic tradition. You can see swirls inside the Pehs, special crowns on the Lameds, and a rare “double-Tet” – all written on deer skin parchment rather than cow hide. It turns out that where a human hand touches a letter on a sefer Torah, that ink will dissolve 50 years later, making the scroll unkosher. When this scroll reached our community, it needed a tremendous amount of repair – a testament to the continuous usage that it had offered the Jewish people for hundreds of years.

KE Religious School students enjoy an interactive assembly with Rabbi Druin
KE Religious School students enjoy an interactive assembly with Rabbi Druin

In 2012, Kol Emeth Religious School rallied our community together to raise funds for repairing this very special Torah. Together, we managed to raise the necessary funds, and commissioned a gifted sofer, Rabbi Moshe Druin, to restore our Torah scroll. Many congregants came to watch as Rabbi Druin worked for days on end to repair this scroll, and Kol Emeth Religious School enjoyed an educational assembly with Rabbi Druin, including an up-close look at ancient parchment, tools of the trade, and our special Torah.

On May 2, 2013, our community celebrated a final Rededication Ceremony for our newly repaired Torah scroll. Thanks to the generosity of Kol Emeth members, including all who participated in Phone-a-thons and fundraisers organized by Kol Emeth Religious School, we have restored our historical Czech scroll, allowing its legacy to live on and touch future generations.

To learn more about our Torah and restoration process, click here to read Rabbi Laurie Matzkin’s interview with our sofer, Rabbi Moshe Druin!