Fifty Torah scrolls were brought to Westminster Synagogue from around the globe last weekend for a special event marking the 50th anniversary of their rescue from the Shoah.
The scrolls were among more than 1,500 brought to Prague from every corner of Czechoslovakia at the height of the Second World War and are now owned and loaned out to shuls worldwide to “commemorate the lost communities of eastern Europe and confront prejudice”.
The scrolls from Sunday’s event – which was attended by the Czech ambassador, German charge d’affaires and Lord Mayor of Westminster – included ones brought courtesy of Fedex from San Antonio and another from Vancouver thanks to two free seats on Air Canada.
Since the scrolls were brought to Britain by philanthropist Ralph Yablon in February 1964, they have been distributed to more than a thousand Jewish communities across the religious spectrum by the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust, based at Westminster shul.
Trust chairman Evelyn Friedlander – widow of Albert Friedlander, a Holocaust refugee and former Rabbi of Westminster Synagogue – said: “These scrolls are living things, bringing new Jewish life wherever they have gone.
“Where once, following the decimation of Czechoslovakian Jewry, there was nothing, there is now new Jewish life from America to New Zealand, Scotland to Cape Town.”
“Even back in the Czech Republic, many synagogues have been inspired to build bridges to the communities from which their scrolls came helping to foster understanding and ensure that the Jews of Eastern Europe are not forgotten.”