A core value that many in our community are familiar is “l’dor va’dor” – keeping the eternal thread of our heritage sustained from one generation to the next. In the lead-up to the holiday of Shavuot, which centres on the idea that every Jewish person is tied to the words of Torah, we are honoured to once again spotlight the remarkable work of the Memorial Scrolls Trust. Their dedication to unearthing, repairing and sharing torah scrolls around the world connects so many distinct Jewish communities to one another, and highlights our common obligation to preserve our collective sifrei torah.
In 1981, our school was entrusted with the care of a torah recovered from the devastation of the Shoah in the area formerly known as Czechoslovakia. The torah in our care is one of 1564 scrolls from this part of Europe. The torah that we have used for prayer services and countless milestones is approximately 200 years old, and at the end of 2019, we invited staff and families – over 150 people – to participate in the mitzvah of inscribing letters in the scroll. We were able to do this with the help of a visiting sofer, Rabbi Yochanan Salazar.
A formal rededication of the renewed scroll proudly took place in 2021, thanks to the profound support of generous donors in our midst. “The intention has always been for the scrolls to stay with the communities that received them. The main priority is that the scrolls have a good home and are used in a meaningful manner. They are always allocated on “Permanent Loan” to a community, and never sold or donated,” explained MST contact Jeffrey Ohrenstein to Rabbi Katz. “Visitors to the website of each allocated community will learn about the special legacy of these survivors and witnesses of the Shoah. Most importantly, they will never be forgotten.”
As our Head of School, Eric Petersiel, wrote in 2020, “This project has given our community an opportunity to respect our history while teaching our students about their place in the chain of tradition.”
We are now linked with over 1,000 torah scroll holders, ensuring that these torah scrolls are continually identified and their location known. Moreover, we are safeguarding the use of this torah for current and future generations and fulfilling the proclamation of our sages: “Turn it, and turn it, for everything is in it. Reflect on it and grow old with it.” – R. Ben Bag Bag (Talmudic tractate pesahim 96a).
For more information about these special Sifrei Torah and where several are allocated, please check out the following links:
by: Janis Seftel with contributions from Rabbi Noam Katz and Iris Glaser