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Holocaust Torah Scroll and Memorial

Holocaust Torah Scroll

Congregations of Shaare Shamayim is proud to house one of the 1,564 saved Torah Scrolls from the region now known as the Czech Republic. MST #763, on loan to us from the Memorial Scrolls Trust, was originally written around the year 1850 and comes from the town of Hodonin in Moravia.

Just before WWII, there were approximately 670 Jews living in Hodonin.  In 1939, the regions of Bohemia and Moravia became protectorates of Nazi Germany. Living under Nazi Germany's discrimination and violence against Jews, group of members of Prague's Jewish community began gathering artifacts from destroyed or decaying synagogues to bring them to a Prague museum where they were carefully preserved and cataloged.

The Jews of Hodonin were deported to concentration camps by the end of 1942 and the synagogues destroyed. Over 78,000 Czech Jews were murdered altogether during the Holocaust.  

After the war, the Scrolls were transferred to London where those that could be used in religious ceremonies were restored and those that could not were sent to synagogues and Jewish institutions as memorials to all those who lost their lives.

MST #763 is currently on display in the lobby and is used to educate our members and Religious School students, especially during Yom HaShoah.

For more information about the Czech Memorial Scrolls, please click on Memorial Scrolls Trust.

Holocaust Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial created by artist Laura Jacobs, which formerly was commissioned for display at Congregations of Ner Zedek, is now displayed in our lobby.  The space was created for this memorial so that current and future generations can learn about and reflect upon this time in our history.


The memorial is set up in a triptych.  The first panel on the far right called "Destruction" represents "Kristallnacht".  Shattered glass falling from the Star of David symbolizes the Nazi pogroms which destroyed Jewish owned synagogues, homes, and stores.  This is the point in history when repression of the Jewish People changed to outright organized violence and genocide.  Millions of people are seen at the bottom of the panel rounded up and imprisoned, stripped of their identity, and are now standing in striped uniforms.  Tattooed numbers have been superimposed over the eyes of the prisoners.  Not only does this show their identities were reduced to a number but it also forces the viewer to see what was done to them through persecution and hatred; we can no longer look at them soul to soul.


The middle panel, called "Abandonment" is most symbolic of the individual.  This individual is curled up in a painful pose symbolizing suffering: emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological.  The Ner Tamid is the Eternal Light above the tunnel-like structure where the being is trapped at the bottom, symbolizing the depth of despair and aloneness.  Shown below the person are precious items that reflect a fully lived life like Torah, Mezuzahs, and Menorahs, along with the personal items of day-to-day life such as leather shoes, jewelry, and books.  There are three layers to this panel to show persistence of time and how past, present and future all merge.  The material items left behind are like ghosts of the souls.  The appearance of a room or tunnel within which a figure embodying pain is sculpted in three dimensions and is as real a form as we, the viewers.  This is to give complete respect and honor to the beings that have endured such a part of history and are not just two dimensional representations, a statistic, or tattooed number.  Rather they are living breathing beings we get to bear witness to and for a moment we let them know they are not alone.


The final panel is called "Redemption" and represents the phrase "Always Remember, Never Forget".  Joined with this message of vigilance is a message of spirit, hope and freedom which is expressed with the image of the Western Wall.  In great contrast to the first panel, individuals are gathered with family and friends, alive, colorful and moving freely.  The individuals are diverse to represent all of humanity.  The presence of the two hands represents the dualism of remembering the suffering by showing the tattooed numbers, while pulling the barbed wire away.  The intensity in the hands expresses the endless amount of strength and intention necessary to keep this dualism manifesting for humanity as a whole.  The golden light of the Ner Tamid is a continual theme in all three panels, cycling through life from Creation to Destruction to Redemption.


The Shirley and Morris Kraft Fund for Educational Activities including Holocaust programs was established by Bobbi Kraft during the rededication of the memorial in November 2017.  If you would like to donate to this fund in support of our Holocaust programs, please click here.  Your support is greatly appreciated.

Sun, June 16 2024 10 Sivan 5784