If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — When the pandemic hit, Rabbi Asher Knight used one of Temple Beth El’s sacred Torahs during the high holidays — chosen because it symbolized perseverance.
The artifact was among 1,500 Czech Memorial Scrolls that survived Nazi Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust. It was later found in the 1960s by Holocaust survivors.
“We did so to send a message to ourselves and our community,” Knight said. “That is difficult times are a part of life and there is a tomorrow and a new beginning.”
Three years later, it’s a message that still rings true amid increasing antisemitism, he said. To honor that message and those who came before, Temple Beth El selected the Czech Memorial Scroll to start a week long restoration process on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Holocaust Remembrance Day or Yom HaShoah ended Tuesday at sundown.
Rabbi Moshe Druin, a visiting sofer, will do the restoration and is among fewer than 20 people in the world qualified to perform this work, temple leaders said.
“The Torah has the stories and values of our people,” Knight said. “It is our story, our history and part of what makes our identity.”
Restoration ensured a Torah could last for a generation, he said. This was a sacred obligation as the Czech Memorial Scroll owned by the temple was the last remnant of destroyed Jewish communities, he said.
A sofer, or Jewish scribe, uses Kosher ink to carefully re-ink letters that may have faded. The second part involves mending the scroll’s parchment. The Czech Memorial Scroll is among six large Torah scrolls that will be restored, Knight said.
During the Holocaust, attempts to harm Jewish communities included efforts to confiscate their sacred texts, Knight said. Nazis wanted to collect Jewish artifacts for a museum.
“That was their intention,” Knight said. “They would kill off the community and then have a museum of an extinct race.”
As a form of resistance, Jewish people risked their lives to protect the Torah scrolls. Many were hidden as Nazi Germany attacked, he said. When the Czech Memorial Scrolls were discovered, they were dispersed across the world to Jewish communities.
This ensured the scrolls would continue to give life, Knight said.
“And that the travesty and devastation of the holocaust would not be in vain,” he said.
MORE THAN A TEXT
The Torah has sustained Jewish people for centuries, said Druin. The morals and values it teaches are universal and followed across the globe, he said.
“This is really what sustains us,” Druin said. “When we have an opportunity to bring back, restore and fix, it’s a great privilege and honor.”
As a way to harm Jewish people, the first thing any civilization would do is burn our religious texts, Druin said. The texts are the heart and soul of Jewish people in many ways, he said.
A Torah was not just something to read, he added
“With this scroll, as it comes by on Jewish services, we will kiss it,” he said. “On the Jewish holiday — Simchat Torah — we dance around the room with it.”
With recent antisemitism happening around Charlotte, Jewish leaders are teaching their congregation to be proud of their heritage, Knight said. Whether it was pharaohs, czars or Nazi Germany, Jewish people have persevered despite persecution, he added.
The restoration of the Czech scroll honored what it meant to resist in a time of hate, he said. “That’s a message, in itself, that is important,” Knight said.