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December 8, 2016 / 8 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Torah Scrolls’

Rabbi Finds 103 Torah Scrolls Stolen from Jews in Hungary

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

A senior Hungarian rabbi said Tuesday he has found 103 Torah scrolls that were stolen from Hungarian Jews in World War II and hidden in a Russian library in Novgorod, east of Moscow.

Russia has not decided what to do with the holy scrolls, which Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation Chief Rabbi Shlomo Koves wants to restore for Jews in Hungary. The Nazi death machine exterminated more than half a million Jews from Hungary, virtually destroying most Jewish communities outside of Budapest.

It was previously known that Russia had stored more than 100 religious texts, some of them more than 500 years old, in the library. Rabbi Koves discovered the Torah scrolls during research at the Novgorod library.

He told a press conference on Tuesday that signs showing the origin of the scrolls have been removed but that he is certain they were stolen from synagogues in Hungary.

“I think it’s the first time in history when such a large collection of Judaica with 100 Torah scrolls in one place was discovered,” Rabbi Koves said. “For seven decades they have been laying naked in those archives, while their only value is for a Jewish community to see them and use them every day.

“And the fact that those scrolls are from Hungary has a special significance this year, which is the 70th year from 1944 when most Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz. For us, finding these Torah scrolls that were connected to our forefathers has a great significance of showing continuity in this community.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

French Town Unveils Hidden Jewish Treasures

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

A town near Strasbourg unveiled dozens of Judaica items hidden before the Holocaust and discovered during the renovation of a former synagogue.

The recently discovered items were presented to the public on Sunday. They had been hidden at what is now the new cultural center of Dambach-la-Ville, a town of 2,000 in eastern France, the L’Alsace daily reported Saturday.

Members of the town’s former Jewish community hid the cache of thousands of items — including old Torah scrolls and texts from the 16th century — in the space of a double ceiling designed especially for concealment, according to the report.

Among the findings are 250 mapot, or wimpels — strips of cloth that were wrapped around Jewish babies during their circumcision and then decorated with their names and deposited for safekeeping. The oldest mappah found at Dambach was dated to 1614. The oldest item found at the former synagogue was a ruined Torah scroll dating back to 1592.

Jean-Camille Bloch, the vice president of the SHIAL historical society on Jewish presence in the Alsace-Lorraine region, was quoted by L’Alsace as saying some of the items recovered are worth hundreds of dollars.

The French government evacuated tens of thousands of Frenchmen from the Alsace-Lorraine region, including 14,000 Jews, when World War II broke out in 1939, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

Due to the evacuation, only about 10 percent of the Alsace-Lorraine Jewish population of 20,000 perished in the Holocaust.


New York Synagogues Bury 12 Torah Scrolls, Victims of Sandy

Monday, May 27th, 2013

Approximately 1000 people participated on Sunday in the burial of approximately 12 Torahs scrolls that sustained irreparable damage in Hurricane Sandy seven months ago. More than 40 synagogues were represented at the ceremony in Far Rockaway.

The Torah scrolls were from synagogues in Far Rockaway, Belle Harbor, Bayswater, Oceanside and Seagate.

The burials were not performed immediately after the hurricane because the communities were too traumatized to understand the tragedy and internalize its meaning, rabbis said.

Jewish Press News Briefs

It’s My Opinion: Sensitivities

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

A minister in Gainesville, Florida, recently caused a major uproar with his plan to burn a Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Reverend Terry Jones’ idea was met with wide-reaching condemnation.


Jones certainly does not represent the American nation, nor anyone but himself and his miniscule congregation. Despite this fact, U.S. Military offered that the deed would put American troops in jeopardy. Riots were predicted. Revenge attacks were anticipated. Muslims throughout the world were enraged. 


Jones reconsidered and changed his mind.  Chaos was averted.


Certainly, the thought of setting fire to holy books is unsettling. As a Jew, I find it especially egregious. Throughout the dark days of the inquisitions, crusades, pogroms and the Shoah, our Torah Scrolls and sacred texts were regularly set ablaze. This type of action is always an outrage.

It is quite ironic, however, that the same Muslim population that is so thin-skinned to any slights to their own feelings, are intransigent when it comes to the sensitivities of other groups. Tourists routinely have bibles confiscated in many Arab countries. One could only surmise what happens to those books. 


Muslim clergy on Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) ban Jews from even carrying a Hebrew prayer book. Jews who dare to move their lips in what is perceived as actual prayer are routinely arrested for “provocation.” When New Yorkers asked that the mosque on Ground Zero be moved two blocks over, the request was labeled an act of Islamophobia. In the atmosphere of this accusation, it is quite interesting to note, that it is forbidden by Islamic law for a non-Muslim to even enter the cities of Mecca and Medina.   


The same Muslim sensibilities that decried the infamous Mohammad cartoons are silent while the Arab press routinely run vile anti-Jewish cartoons and caricatures in state-sanctioned newspapers.


This one-sided demand for compliance goes on and on.  It is patently absurd for any group to demand world empathy while ignoring the feelings and concerns of all others.  Yes, Pirkei Avot advises, “If I am not for myself, who will be?”  But it also warns, “If I am only for myself, what am I?”  Perhaps it is time for the Muslim world to take notice of this concept.

Shelley Benveniste

Polish Writer Henryk Halkowski

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Polish writer Henryk Halkowski, z”l, one of Poland’s most notable contemporary Jewish personalities, died suddenly on January 1, just days after celebrating his 57th birthday. Friends said the cause of his death was a heart attack. He wrote and translated several books and essays on Jewish culture, history and thought. An expert on the Jewish history and heritage of Krakow, Halkowski also was an acute observer of the transformation of Jewish life after the fall of Communism. With his thick glasses, gray beard and zest for conversation, Halkowski was a familiar figure in this city’s Jewish quarter, Kazimirez.


“Henryk was one of a kind,” Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich said. “His soul was gentle and his intellect fierce. He would always let you know what he was thinking. While you may not always have agreed with what he said, it was always well thought out and absolutely sincere. He was an anchor of Yiddishkeit in Krakow and we will miss him very greatly.


I first met Henryk on my first visit to Krakow more then 10 years ago and we quickly became friends. His enthusiasm about the Jewish history of his hometown, Krakow, made him an unforgettable character. He was a fixture in the Aleph Café on the main square in the Jewish neighborhood opposite the Rema Synagogue. Henryk wrote a popular book on legends of Jewish Krakow and often gave impromptu tours of the many synagogue buildings and cemeteries in Krakow.


The last time I saw Henryk, during the High Holy Days, he was an active participant in the minyan. Although not overly religious he felt very protective of his Jewishness. He once commented to me that he had retired from being a professional Jew. He had problems with the fact that many of the “Jews,” and especially vendors at Jewish events, were not in fact Jewish but only taking advantages of Jews coming to Poland, searching for their roots, for monetary gains.


“Kazimirez will never be the same without him and all his craziness,” said Malgosia Ornat of the Austria Jewish publishing house. “We will miss him a lot. He was so important for Jewish life in Krakow and a certain period of its revival is gone forever.”


Joachim Russek, the director of Krakow’s Centrum Judaicum Jewish Center here, called Halkowski “a guardian of Krakow’s Jewish legacy” and said, “The Kazimirez quarter without him will not be the same.”


Torah Comes To Poznan


On January 8, 2009, a Hachnassat Sefer Torah, a ceremony introducing Torah Scrolls to the seat of the local Jewish Religious Community, took place in Poznan. The representatives of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland participated in the ceremony. When I visited the community last year it was explained to me that they did not have regular services, as the community was too small. They gathered regularly twice a month for Oneg Shabbat and held regular services when enough people joined them. Now with the introduction of the Torah Scrolls it is hoped that they will be able to have services on a more regular basis.


Sign Erected At Bilgoraj Cemetery


It was recently reported in this column that the cemetery in the town of Bilgoraj was in danger of being obliterated. While negotiations are ongoing as to the final disposition of the Jewish cemetery and adjoining mass grave a sign has been erected at the site through the initiative of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, reminding visitors of proper behavior during the visit on its grounds.


Jewish Scholastic Agreement With Chile


The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland recently announced an agreement between itself and the Center of Jewish Studies of the Chilean University (Centro de Estudios Judaicos Universidad de Chile) concerning, among others, intellectual cooperation, exchange of publications and information about Jewish culture and history as well as joint educational and scientific projects. It is hoped that the cooperation between the two will raise awareness, of the importance of Jewish-Polish culture on the Jewish world, to the university in Chile.

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/polish-writer-henryk-halkowski/2009/01/14/

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