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Czech Torah Scroll (Holocaust Scroll Trust) Memorial Scroll Trust: #1483

How the Shaarey Zedek Obtain the Czech Torah Scroll

By Mel Lazareck about his mother, Anna Lazareck Z"L

(Updated with new details April 2022)

Following the death of my father in 1976, my mother spent her winters in Los Angeles at which time she volunteered at the Skirball Jewish Museum.

Having an Orthodox background, fluency in Hebrew, and a degree in anthropology, she was well suited for many of the museums projects.

One of these projects centered around interpreting and identifying Torah binders. These binders served as the wrapping of the Torah scrolls and, as was the custom in Europe, the binders portrayed by illustration and word the life cycle events of that particular community.

She was intrigued by the stories the binders told. Tracing the source of the Skirball Museum Torahs to Westminster Synagogue in London, England, she made the acquaintance of the curator Mrs. Ruth Shaffer, the daughter of the Yiddish writer, Sholem Asch.

She learned from Ruth that the real accumulation of Torahs and many other Jewish articles was located at The Jewish Museum in Prague, Czechoslovakia, which was opened in 1906. 210,000 items were shipped to the museum during the war from communities in Bohemia and Moravia. Nothing was sent to Prague from other countries.

The Prague Museum came into being as a result of the Nazi Germany directive to accumulate Jewish religious articles in order to establish a museum for the “former” Jewish race. The government of Czechoslovakia ended up with a large accumulation as the majority of these religious articles from destroyed synagogues throughout Europe were sent to Prague. Thus the Jewish Museum of Prague came into existence. In 1963 the Czech Government offered the scrolls for sale and Ralph Yablon gave the money so that 1564 Torah and other scrolls were brought to London in 1964. Nearly 500 binders/wimples came with the scrolls. There was only one transaction, not many over several years.

My mother wished to visit Prague, and through business associates in that region, I arranged for her to spend several weeks there in the late 1970’s. During her stay, she worked on identifying and translating a variety of these artifacts. 

She made many new friends whom I had the opportunity to meet when we stopped over on a trip to Israel (mother, my son Adam and myself) and spent a few days in Prague (1985).

Following her original stay in Prague, she wanted our community to have a connection with an article from the former Jewish communities in Europe.

She arranged to acquire under the term “permanent loan” from the Westminster Synagogue in London, a Torah that came from a Czech the town of Slany in the Bohemia region where Jews lived since the 14th century. Apparently the Czech government would not allow any items to be moved from the State Jewish Museum. However, the Westminster Synagogue had a lot of influential former Czechs now living in London, as members. These members managed over the years to obtain some articles and, fortunately for my mother, they were prepared to provide a Torah for our synagogue on “permanent loan”.

Regardless, the Torah, which at one point was dedicated at our synagogue, became known as the Holocaust Torah and is used for Yizkor.

We received this Torah in 1981. I believe she had some input on the Torah cover, and possibly the crown and/or pointer adorning it. At the end of the photos is a picture of the Torah cover and the dedication information.

As a matter of general interest, my mother and her family lived for a while at the synagogue located at the time on Dagmar Street. She was born in the basement of the synagogue on Simchas Torah.

Please visit the Memorial Scoll Trust Website to learn more about their work in saving Torah Scrolls.

Photos below by Robyn Shapiro Photography


Torah Cover Translation
In memory of the souls of all the European Jews that were murdered for "Kiddush Hashem" (in the name of God)
In the memory of the soul my husband, Shmuel Lazareck
And my parents, Menachem Mandel and Ada Kowlasahen
And my brothers, Moshe and Shmuel Dov Baaer, and My sister, Yaffa
Blessed is the memory of the righteous
The charity of Hanna Lazareck

Fri, 12 July 2024 6 Tammuz 5784