Rabbi Moshe Druin, an expert in evaluating and repairing Torahs, visited from Miami Beach to inspect a 150-year-old Torah belonging to Temple Shalom on Browne Avenue, in Yakima, Wash.
Druin, a sopher or scribe, assessed the Yakima Torah for signs of wear and tear, and, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic, alternately enlightened, delighted and awed the congregation with his findings.
Not only does that Torah have a historical provenance, it’s a rare copy that will probably never be made in the same way again, Druin explained.
The congregation of 48 families was aware that their Torah had been rescued from what was once Czechoslovakia after World War II. Druin filled in the details:
During World War II, Jews in Nazi-occupied Prague sent messages around the countryside for fellow Jews to bring their family heirlooms and Torahs to be housed safely with the blessings of the Nazis, who were planning to create a museum of a lost race after they exterminated all the Jews.
In the 1950s, a London art dealer was visiting countries in communist Eastern Europe and discovered 1,681 scrolls, or Torahs, in a Czechoslovakian basement, the largest concentration in history.
“He flipped out,” Druin said.
The art dealer returned to England, gathered money and headed to Prague to buy back all the stashed Torahs. Later, after being held by a trust in England, many of those Torahs have been loaned out to synagogues around the world.
Temple Shalom’s was one of them.
“Take it out and commemorate it,” Druin told the congregation. “Keep the memory alive of the people it belonged to.”