22 March 2009

Massachusetts: Remembering Dvur Kralove

A Boston suburb synagogue that has held a Czech Torah scroll for 30 years, will hold a memorial to honor 123 Jews of Dvur Kralove who died in Auschwitz-Berkenau. Only recently - thanks to an Internet search - have the names of those souls been recovered.

On April 27, Temple Emanuel in Newton will unveil the names on a Wall of Remembrance, according to this Boston Globe story. To see the names, click here.

Alan Edelstein, 82, chairs the congregation's Holocaust memorial committee and it was his personal journey that led him to the Drur Kralove community.
For 30 years, Edelstein has walked by the Torah, encased in glass, in the synagogue’s lobby. And while he said he felt relief that the Torah escaped Nazi harm, something else pulled at him: Who were the individuals who once read from its scrolls, which contain the Five Books of Moses?

‘‘Walking by it, I felt something was missing, not fulfilling the Torah’s place in our community,’’ said Edelstein, 82, of Waban.
Three years, he embarked on a mission to find the names of those who belonged to the synagogue, where the Torah was once used. His motivation was not personal - he's a second-generation Bostonian - but for Jewish continuity. Edelstein and his wife funded the memorial.

On April 27, the synagogue's youth will read the names of 123 Jews from the town who perished in Auschwitz.

Wayne Goldstein, the director of informal youth education at the synagogue, said the memorial service is meant to ‘‘connect the generations.’’

‘‘The kids pass by [the Torah] every day. They don’t stop and look. Now, we hope there will be real resonance with them,’’ he said.
The Zachor (remember, Hebrew) memorial will list the names, their place of death and their age.

Edelstein's chase began by calling the Czech Embassy three years ago with few results. Then he went to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, with not much more. He sent emails to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
‘‘I got nowhere fast,’’ said Edelstein. The names of Jewish victims from the town remained a mystery.
An online search connected him to Rabbi Emeritus Norman Patz of Temple Sholom of West Essex, in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, whose congregation also has a Dvur Kralove Torah.

Patz and his wife Naomi published a monograph ‘‘Thus We Remember, ’’ which tells the story of the Dvur Kralove Jews and lists their names.

The rabbi also teaches post-Holocaust thought at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey. He said said Edelstein’s efforts to personalize a Holocaust relic is part of a larger trend in World War II commemorations.
‘‘In the early years, people talked about the huge numbers, the 6 million,’’ said Patz, in an interview from his home in North Caldwell, N.J. ‘‘But there were no names. Today, the development has been in the direction of telling personal stories with people’s names.’’
In 1942, says Susan Boyer, the US director of the London-based Memorial Scrolls Trust, the Czech Jews organized a rescue effort to save the Torahs. The Trust distributes Czech Torahs to institutions through the world.

Fifty Czech Torahs are in Massachusetts, and more than 1,000 in the US, including one at the White House. The organization lends these scrolls on a long-term loan for a donation of 2,500 British pounds. The scrolls must be used at least once a year according to the conditions set. Boyer says they are more than scrolls, they are witnesses to history.

In 1942, one year after the Nazis began mass deportations of Jews from Czechoslovakia, curators at Prague’s Jewish Museum proposed a plan to the Nazis with the hope of preserving Jewish ritual objects from destruction. The Nazis agreed to the plan, although no one knows why, since the Nazi policy was Jewish annihilation.

The result was a substantial collection held at the museum and at more than 40 warehouses around Prague of about 100,000 liturgical items. Among them were five Dvur Kralove Torahs. They remained in Czechoslovakia until 1964, when an art dealer from London orchestrated the purchase en masse of 1,564 Holocaust Torahs from the Communist government of Czechoslovakia.
Drur Kralove's community dates to 1838. Its synagogue was established in 1890 and, by the 1930s, there were 182 Jews within the town's greater population of 16,545.

Read the complete article at the link above.

1 comment:

  1. What a great story! I was fascinated to learn of the Memorial Scrolls Trust.