A Holocaust-era Torah scroll saved by a 14-year-old boy will be displayed this week at a Bay Shore synagogue to commemorate the 80th anniversary of attacks that preceded Nazi Germany’s killing of 6 million Jews during World War II.
During “Kristallnacht”—the Night of Broken Glass on Nov. 9, 1938—windows were smashed at Jewish businesses and synagogues were ransacked across Germany. Thousands of Torahs—the first five books of the Bible—were destroyed.
Teenager Isaac Schwartz saved one scroll from a Hamburg synagogue that had been torched. Schwartz buried the Torah in the backyard of his Hamburg home before the family escaped to Venezuela, according to several news reports.
The Torah was recovered after World War II; its parchment was torn and writing faded.
The Torah went through 18 months of rehabilitation as a sofer (or ritual scribe) rewrote the faded letters and replaced torn pieces.
Torahs are Judaism’s most sacred objects. A sofer takes up to a year to craft a Torah before it is stored in the synagogue ark and read during services.
This scroll will be at Sabbath services of the Chabad of Islip Town, with services beginning at 10 a.m, Torah reading at 11 a.m. March 2nd at 102 East Main Street in Bay Shore. The services will be followed by a traditional kiddush luncheon.
“I look at this Torah as a beacon of hope, a beacon of courage, a beacon of overcoming negativity, where a little light dispels much darkness,” said Rabbi Shimon Stillerman of Chabad of Islip. One aim of this service is to strengthen the community while giving residents a look at a scroll that has survived decades, Stillerman said.
The Torah’s presence provides an opportunity to educate the community about the Holocaust and how Judaism and Jewish values were rekindled afterward, the rabbi said.
“A lot of people are not that familiar with the tragedies that occurred 80 years ago and, on a positive note, how we’ve been able to rekindle and grow and prosper Judaism and Jewish values and the Jewish lifestyle, even here in the Town of Islip”, Stillerman said.
Photos courtesy of Jewish Learning Institute