OPINION: United thanks to the scrolls

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: United thanks to the scrolls

Michael Heppner
Michael Heppner

By Michael Heppner

Michael Heppner
Michael Heppner

They came from five congregations on three continents, united by their common bond of each having been entrusted with a Torah scroll dedicated to the lost Jews of Kolín (in the Czech Republic). From England, America and Israel, they were drawn to Kolín to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the return of the town’s Jewish survivors in 1945. Some came as tourists, but their purpose was to boost awareness in the town of the loss of around 500 members its population when the Nazis deported its Jews in June 1942.

Events covering three days demonstrated that although the town had lost its Jews, there were Jews from around the world who felt a bond with Kolín and that, once again, the Jews had come back and the historic synagogue would be alive with the sounds of Jewish life.

Three schools in Kolín had been set a challenge in 2013; to undertake projects that would commemorate the lives of some of the Jewish children of Kolín who had died at the hands of the Nazis. Their incentive was that, in 2015, Jews from three continents would come to Kolín to see the results of these moving and amazing projects.

There were other events: There was the dedication of the trail of brass Stolpersteine pavement memorials that wound its way round the centre of the town and the former ghetto, passing the houses where Jews had lived and ending up in front of the 17th century synagogue that had been restored by the town.

There were two packed Shabbat services in the restored shul, focusing on the stories of the Jewish survivors who had returned from the camps after the Nazis’ defeat. There was the launch of the English translation of the book by Rabbi Dr Richard Feder, the last rabbi of Kolín, who survived and wrote his account of what happened to his congregation. A final act of remembrance took place at the New Cemetery, where Rabbi Feder had erected a memorial, on which are the names of the town’s 480 Jews. At the ceremony, each person present represented one of the lost families of Kolín. As the Kaddish ended, each instinctively went up to the memorial to find their family, a symbolic act that demonstrated how important it is that they are not forgotten.

Michael Heppner is a member of Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue and the former research director of the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: