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Holocaust Torah Scroll

Article published in the Southern Shofar, May 1997:

Another Holocaust survivor has found refuge in Huntsville.

On May 4, Temple B’nai Sholom dedicated a Holocaust Torah at its annual Holocaust remembrance, in front of a completely packed sanctuary.

During the Holocaust, the Nazis collected Jewish artifacts and warehoused them in Prague, preparing them for a museum that would depict the extinct race of Judaism.  Among the artifacts were 1,564 Torah scrolls, which were piled in the disused Michle Synagogue for 20 years.

In 1963, a London art connoisseur arranged to acquire the scrolls, and in February 1964, they arrived at the Westminster Synagogue.  The synagogue began cataloging them and grading their condition, from usable to unusable, with degrees in between for scrolls that could be restored.  Priority went to finding synagogues in need of Torah scrolls, and they received usable scrolls.

Ones that were damaged beyond usability were designated as memorial scrolls, and distributed to synagogues around the world on “permanent loan” as monuments to the Holocaust.

The Huntsville scroll joins others in Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile.

While many scrolls have a history detailing what congregation they originally came from, that is not the case with the one in Huntsville.  B’nai Sholom Rabbi Steven Jacobs said “we have no information whatsoever about the community that studied it, prayed over it.”

Still, “that congregation, somehow in God’s own way, will live on through us.”

The scroll, which is wrapped in a plain blue and white cover reminiscent of a prayer shawl, has evidence of burn marks and even blood stains.  It will not be displayed with the silver ornamentation common for Torah scrolls, neither will B’nai Sholom repair the damage.

Louis Weiner, who spearheaded acquiring the Torah for B’nai Sholom, dedicated it in memory of his daughter, Julie Ann, who died in 1971 at age 11.

After that happened, he “wandered in the wilderness for two decades,” but when business took him to Israel he began having a desire to “reunite” with Judaism, “and to understand and accept the death of my daughter.”

In his travels, he learned that “Jews must survive individually, and Judaism must collectively survive.”

The Holocaust Torah, which “survived the Holocaust where little else has” has “special meaning” in its fire marks and water stains.  Weiner said its survival “seems to instill in it a special meaning.  So perhaps it is fitting that it becomes a remembrance: for me, a personal remembrance of my beloved daughter; for the youth of Temple B’nai Sholom, a remembrance of the one and one-half million children; for all, a remembrance of the Six Million.”

Also at the commemoration, Birmingham’s Dora Nesselroth spoke about being sent to Auschwitz at age 14.  Of the 128 members of her family, only 8 survived the Holocaust.

She said that a repeat cannot happen here “if we, our children, our children’s children, are willing to fight for justice against prejudice, against twisted minds.”

Members of B’nai Sholom’s eighth and ninth grade classes read a list of 50 child victims of the Holocaust who had no family left to mourn them after the war.

Sun, November 19 2017 1 Kislev 5778