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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Displaying "Holocaust" Torah Scrolls

I travel to North America frequently, and when visiting shuls where they proudly display a "Holocaust" Torah - usually open and behind glass -  I'm not sure what to say. It seems to me that if the Torah is kosher, then place in ahron and should be in use. And if not kosher, then repair (if possible ) or burial. Suggestions? Thank you.

10 comments:

  1. The rabbanim I've asked don't like it because it's a bizayon. Unfortunately the minhag ta'us has tremendous staying power. The sefarim are usually open to the tochacha of ki savo, but I once saw one open to the arayos in acharei mos. Someone's idea of backhanded mussar?

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  2. What types of shuls are these?

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  3. Mostly Conservative but some Orthodox, particularly formermly Conservative.

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  4. I've seen this display of open, glass-encased Holocaust Survivor Torah scrolls most recently at Orthodox shuls.

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  5. The simple answer is most of these people do not know any better. If you will tell them will they even listen?

    I also seen by many sofrim that display posul mezuzahs and tefillin parshiyos on a cork bulletin board, is this allowed for educational purposes?

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  6. I have repaired a number of Shoah sifrey torah. Quite often this is a very difficult but many communities are tasked to try and keep the Torah in use as a living memory - much better than sticking it in a case. However there have been a couple that I have seen that were far too far gone for repair to be either economical or even possible. The communities do not want to bury them because of the historical importance of the sifrey - many have very special stories (one for example in a community local to me was apparently rescued from flames by a Nazi officer uncomfortable with the whole thing after his superior had put a bullet through it). The community treasure it and use it to educate children and adults. One other that I am about to start working on was rescued from Germany just before Kristalnacht.

    Many of these sifrey were loaned on permanent loan from the Holocuast Memorial Scrolls Trust who I work closely with and therefore do not belong to the synagogue and so they cannot bury them (indeed they can't repair them without permission). A condition of their loan is that they integrate the Torah into the life of the community and remember the community from which they came at least each year. Scrolls were given to shuls of all denominations. If a shul folds or no longer wants the Torah they are supposed to return it to the trust so they can repair (if possible) and reallocate. The scrolls are recognisable as they have a plaque and a number on the atsey chayim - though I believe some have been removed over time when atsey were replaced and ignorant communities did not re-affix the plaque. The trust are therefore not aware of where all the sifrey are. If you ever do come across one, or are asked to repair one, please let me know location and I will report this to the Trust.

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  7. R' Mordechai Pinchas - is the Trust you mention the same as The Czech Memorial Scrolls? http://www.czechmemorialscrollstrust.org/ If so, then I have come across one, and yes it is need of repair.

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    1. Yes - they are the Czech Memorial Trust. If you want to drop me a line about it with more details you can contact me through www.sofer.co.uk (not sure if this forum allows you to see emails directly).

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  8. At one Orthodox shul, they came up with a unique way to deal with such a mounted Sefer Torah. They placed a curtain over the case of the sefer, so that when someone wishes to look at the sefer they may, but the sefer is not constantly exposed. (This was, however, a compromise with those who insisted on displaying the Sefer Torah).

    This particular Sefer Torah, and many others, is from the Czech Memorial Scrolls, as mentioned above. Fixing these Sifrei Torah are almost always out-of-the question, as they are so badly faded, etc.

    The question of what should be done with such a Sefer Torah is an interesting one. The particular Sefer Torah I mentioned, which I guesstimated to be about 300 or so years old, had several unique features, including many unique taggin and uniquely drawn letters in certain places, as well as spaces between every passuk.

    After overcoming my shock and horror at seeing a Sefer Torah so disgraced, and after examining the beautiful taggin and features of the Sefer Torah I began to think that burying it (assuming it would be possible) would be a shame for two reasons:

    1) It's a nostalgic link to the past, and a reminder that our ancestors - too - used and studied the Torah. Such Sifrei Torah could positively influence other people to increase their observance.

    2) It's an interesting preservation of the way some Sifrei Torah were written in the past.

    (These are emotional reactions, and not halachikly based.)

    So the question remains: what is the best way of dealing with these Sifrei Torah?!

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