Story Of The Jewish Torahs of Czechoslovakia
Four - The White House
One Czech scroll is now in the White House. Of great antiquity,
it comes from Uherské Hradiste, one of the six royal cities
of medieval Moravia, where Jews appear to have lived as far back
as 1342. The scroll was given to President Jimmy Carter on November
2, 1977, after he had addressed a meeting called by the World Jewish
Congress in Washington, D.C. The scroll was presented to him by
Nahum Goldmann, the retiring president of the Congress, who expressed
the hope that President Carter would install the scroll in the Executive
Mansion "as a constant reminder of our prayers for justice
and peace." President Carter replied, "I accept it for
all those who share a common religious heritage and a common commitment
to the future...I will observe it daily in the White House as I
go about my duties and it will be a constant reminder to me of the
spirit of human rights, decency, and love that is exemplified by
those of you represented here tonight."
Several of the scrolls brought to the United States help poignant
personal memories for members of the Society for the History of
Czechoslovak Jewry. A scroll sent to Atlanta, Georgia, turned out
to be from Mladá Boleslav, the hometown of Gertrude Hirschler,
author of The Jews of Czechoslovakia, from which the text for this
story was so gratefully borrowed. Its wimple is embroidered with
the name of the woman who commissioned the writing of this particular
sifre Torah in the year 1881, Rivka Eisencshimmel.
Rabbi Dr. Hugo Stransky had served his people for nearly half a
century, first in Czechoslovakia, then in London, New Zealand, Australia,
and finally at Congregation Beth Hillel of Washington Heights in
New York City. He was about to retire. One of the last official
functions he attended was the rededication of Torah Scroll No. 66,
over two hundred years old, at Temple Israel of Staten Island, New
York. Sharing the pulpit with the Temple's spiritual leader, Rabbi
Milton Rosenfeld, Dr. Stransky looked more closely at the scroll.
Tears came to his eyes. it was the the sifre Torah he had used in
his first congregation in Czechoslovakia, the synagogue of Nachod,
from 1930 to 1936.
"In what condition is it?," he whispered to his colleague,
his voice choked with emotion as he peered intently at the scroll
before him. "Ah!," he observed, "a bit faded, but
it can be read."
And so, Rabbi Stransky's long career of service to his fellow Jews
on three continents came to a close in America within sight of the
Torah scroll he had held in his arms on his first Sabbath as a "rabbi,
teacher, and preacher in Israel" in a Bohemian Jewish community
that is no more.
Rabbi Stransky looked down upon the congregation gathered in the
sanctuary of Temple Israel to receive the old Torah scroll from
Czechoslovakia. Like the scroll, some of the men and women seated
before him were remnants of ancient, vibrant communities that had
fallen to Nazi terror and oppression. Now both the people and the
Torah scroll were in a new land where Jews were free to nurture
the heritage of their fathers and to pass it on to their children.
As of 1981 (the date of the most recent report issued by the Memorial
Scrolls Committee), a total of 1,297 scrolls had been catalogued.
Of these, a total of 692 had been sent to various synagogues and
other Jewish institutions in England and other countries as follows:
The article taken from the book The Jews Of Czechoslovakia used
on The Czech Torah Network Web site was written by Joseph Pick.
The book The Jews Of Czechoslovakia was partially written and compiled
by Gertrude Hirschler, Edited by Avigdor Dagan, and Associate Edited
by Lewis Weiner. The book is published by The Jewish Publication
Society Of America of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with help from
The Society For The History Of Czechoslovak Jews of New York.
Editor's Note: The Story Of The Jewish
Torahs of Czechoslovakia appeared in Volume III of
the book The Jews Of Czechoslovakia
Historical Studies and Surveys which was authored
by Joseph C. Pick. It can be found on pages 584-610.
© 2003. The Society for the History of Czech Jews, of New
Jersey. All Rights Reserved.