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  • Writer's pictureWendell Maxey

1775 Torah Scroll From Czech Republic Highlights Growing Archive For Staten Island Holocaust Center


Did you know that across the borough of Staten Island, there are currently four Torahs residing in locations generously provided by the Memorial Scrolls Trust?


Along with Congregation Bnai Jeshurun, Congregation Temple Emanu-El, Temple Israel Reform Congregation of Staten Island, the Staten Island Holocaust Center has proudly been the home to a Kosher Torah from the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, Czech Republic that dates back to 1775.


This addition to the growing SIHC archives arrived in June ‘22 and was made possible thanks to a donation from Dr. Michael Kurzman of Staten Island and through the Memorial Scrolls Trust (MST#539) in London, England that allowed the SIHC to obtain the scroll.


The Memorial Scrolls Trust cares for 1,564 Torah scrolls that represent the lost Jewish communities of Bohemia and Moravia. Some 1,400 have been allocated on loan to communities and organizations around the world. The second oldest preserved synagogue in Prague, the Pinkas Synagogue began in 1535 as a private house of prayer before expanding to include a women’s gallery and becoming a place of worship by the local congregation in the 17th century.


Today the importance of the Pinkas Synagogue lies in its role as a memorial to the 80,000 victims of the Holocaust from Bohemia and Moravia, whose names are hand-painted on the walls. The list for the inscriptions was compiled from sources which include extant transport papers and registration lists.


Pinkas Synagogue also houses a poignant exhibition of children’s drawings from Terezin concentration camp.


After World War II, the synagogue was closed for several decades due to its poor condition. After the collapse of the Communist regime it was reopened to the public following completion of renovation work. Approximately one-fourth of the hand-painted names suffered extensive damage after floods in 2002 and although insurance covered the majority of the structural damage, it did not include the repainting of the main hall or the names washed away by floodwaters.


Pinkas Synagogue is a reminder of the Jewish community that once flourished in Prague and today the building serves as a Holocaust memorial and provides a space in which the public can learn about Jewish history in Prague and remember those lost during World War II.


In many ways, that history and the 1775 Torah Scroll has now traveled around the world to land right here in Staten Island thanks to the Memorial Scrolls Trust.


Connect with the Staten Island Holocaust Center (SIHC) on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn and help show your support of the Staten Island Holocaust Center (SIHC) by making a tax-deductible donation today!


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