A day with our Czech Torah: One of the greatest honors of my life

Harriet Nelson and Gloria Bitting

On Monday, February 9, the Memorial Scrolls Trust of London, from whom our Czech Torah is on loan, held a workshop and an evening program commemorating the 51st anniversary of the liberation of the Czech Torahs. The event took place at the Jewish Historical Society in Phoenix.

Jeffrey Ohrenstein, CEO of the Memorial Scrolls Trust, and Michael Heppner, Research Director of the Trust, came in from London; and Susan Boyer, Western U.S. Trust representative, attended from California. Lee Shedroff, Phoenix Trust representative, coordinated the event. Lee and his wife were at a memorial service at our Temple two years ago reuniting his Czech Torah with ours – both were former Ark-mates in Kolin.

The afternoon workshop, conducted by Mr. Heppner, was entitled An Obligation and an Opportunity and provided us with many ideas about how our Scroll Congregation can build a bond with its Memorial Scroll. We were also given a pledge to take to honor the memory of the Jews of the town from which our Scroll came (Kolin): to dedicate one Shabbat each year to their memory and to include them in our Yom Kippur Memorial Service (which we have been doing).

The evening ceremony was open to the public and it was a full house. The Torah Processional of approximately 20 Torahs from Arizona was very moving – as was the Recessional after the program. Gloria Bitting proudly carried our Torah, which was most impressive with its embroidered mantle befitting our reverence for it and for its age (365 years). It drew a lot of attention and honor.

After a moving service with Holocaust survivors lighting candles after the Torah processional, Mr. Heppner, the keynote speaker, spoke about the Myth of the Museum – about how these Torahs were saved by the Czech Jews and not the Nazis, as was previously thought.

It was a day and evening that will remain one of our most cherished memories and we were so proud to represent Temple Havurat Emet.