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Our Holocaust Torah

The Jewish Community in Susice was established in the mid-1600s. From all accounts, the Jews in Susice were  integrated into the local community, as were the other Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia. The Jews were not isolated in a ghetto; they spoke the local language, went to school with non-Jewish children, and had non-Jewish friends. This acceptance is one of the reasons Jews did not flee when the Nazi threat started to build. 

We know that the Susice scroll was one of about 1600 that were collected from Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia by  the Nazis during World War II. The Torah scrolls, as well as over 100,000 Jewish ceremonial items, were sent to the Jewish Museum of Prague, where they remained, gathering dust, for years. Only 1090 of the Jews from Bohemia and Moravia survived the war. When the Communists took over Czechoslavakia, there was no governmental interest in religion, and the scrolls continued to be left in storage. 

In 1963, a prominent British art dealer, with good working relations in Czech art circles, was able to negotiate the sale of over 1500 Torah scrolls. The acquisition was funded by Ralph Yablon, a London businessman and philanthropist with the condition that they be entrusted to a non-commercial body. The Westminster Synagogue in London took on the mantle of housing, restoring and distributing these "lost" scrolls. They created the Memorial Scrolls Trust to assume this responsibility. As part of their mission, the restored Czech scrolls were given a new life in congregations around the world -- on 'permanent loan' where they are touchstones for all of us to remember. 

While researching the background of our Torah scroll, a congregant, Ron Fomalont, was able to connect with the only Jewish survivor of Susice--Hana Gruna. Hana was flown to Los Angeles for the Dedication Ceremony of the restored Torah. She literally handed the scroll to our congregation and asked us to remember the Jews of Susice.

Since we received the Torah, our synagogue has supported the maintenance of the Jewish Cemetary in Susice. A plaque was commissioned and hand-carried to the Jewish Cemetary in Susice by the Fomalonts and Ben-Meirs. Hana was present for the dedication. 

Our congregation continues to honor our Susice connection when we use the Torah. We list those from Susice who perished in our Yizkor booklet on Yom Kippur. We continue to subsidize the up-keep of the Jewish Cemetary. Several families have visited Susice over the years. When we use the Torah at services, all of us can feel the special legacy and remember the Jews of Susice.   

-- from Restoring Our Founding Torah, Sha'arei Am: The Santa Monica Synagogue.

Memorial Scrolls Trust

"The Memorial Scrolls Trust cares for 1564 Torah scrolls that represent the lost Jewish communities of Bohemia and Moravia. Some 1400 have been allocated on loan (they are never sold) to communities and organizations around the world." Memorial Scrolls Trust. 

Read more about the Memorial Scrolls Trust

Our scroll, Czech Memorial Scroll No. 445, is listed here

Read the New York Times  feature story on the Trust from February 5, 2024. 

Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784