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Prestice, Czechoslavakian Holocaust Torah Scroll

Our Torah Scroll comes from the town of Prestice a small town in Bohemia (a Province of Czechoslavakia) about twenty kilometers south of the town of Pilsen. Jews lived in Prestice for many centuries. The records indicate that Jewish tradesmen lived in Presice before 1685. There were great fires in the 16th and 17th centuries which destroyed some of the older records. To this day, there is a "Jewish Street" in Prestice.

When the Nazis invaded Czechoslavakia, the Jews from Prestice were deported to concentration camps. We have no record of survivors prior to the deportation. The Nazis ordered that all Jewish objects from all the Jewish Synagogues be sent to the central collecting warehouses in Prague. Prestice sent over 212 valuable objects. Our Torah scroll is damaged beyond repair; we are not permitted to read from this Torah Scroll at services. We will revere our scroll as a memorial to a civilization that is gone. We intend to remember Prestice and its Jews each time we recite the Yizkor Memorial Service in our synagogue.

Congregation Beth El: Caretakers of the Torah Scroll

Congregation Beth El is privileged to be the caretaker of a Torah rescued from the Holocaust. This special Torah represents a link between our past and the continuing saga of Jewish life.

The saving of the Jewish treasurers of Bohemia and Moravia can be credited to a devoted group of Jews from Prague's Jewish Community and to what had become the Central Jewish Museum in Prague. The Jews working in the community hoped that these treasures would be protected and might one day be returned to their original homes. All the Museum's curators were eventually transported to Terezin and Auschwitz, with only two survivors. Their legacy and their gift to the Jewish world was the vast catalogued collection in what later became the Jewish Museum in Prague.

Following the World War II, the Torot became the responsibility of the Czech government. Although it did not do anything to desecrate the Torot, they continued to decay through neglect. Many had fire or water damage. In 1963, the Czech government secretly contacted an American art dealer who had been working quietly behind the Iron Curtain collecting antiquities, and asked if he would find a party to remove the Torot from Czechoslovakia. By the end of 1964, 1,564 Torot had been quietly transported to the Westminster Synagogue in London, the costs underwritten by Ralph Yablon, a London businessman.

The Czech Memorial Scroll Centre was established at Westminster Synagogue in 1964 to catalogue the place of origin, age and condition of each scroll; repair them when possible; and distribute them to synagogues around the world. Many of the kosher Torot were distributed to synagogues that could not afford the cost of a new scroll. Others such as ours were deemed beyond repair, suitable for commemorative use only. None of the Torot are sold, but remain on permanent loan to each synagogue from The Czech Memorial Scroll Centre (our scroll is #1532)

Our Torah dates from 1854, and came from Prestice, a small town approximately 120 km southwest of Prague. It was dedicated by Reb Icek Pollock, a leader of the Jewish community, in honor of the birth of his son David. The Jewish community in Prestice dates back to the 15th century. The Jewish population of Prestice reached a maximum of around 750 in the mid-1800s, and by 1930 had dwindled to around 300. The prevailing occupation of the Jews in the district was in small business, mainly in grocery, dry goods, haberdashery and, in the villages around Prestice, cattle. Prestice was home to Leopold Weisel (1804 - 1873), a prominent collector and editor of Jewish legends. Weisel is credited by some sources as the first to publish a story of the Golem of Prague in 1847. The Prestice Synagogue was built in 1910; it was destroyed by the Czech authorities in 1974.

The concentration of Czech Jews in the ghetto of Terezin began in November 1941. From there they were deported to extermination camps. Before the deportation of the Jewish Community of Prestice to Terezin, 152 documents and 212 religious objects of the community were transferred to the Central Jewish Museum in Prague.

For more information on rescued Czech Torot, visit www.czechtorah.org and www.memorialscrollstrust.org.

*When this statement was composed, in 1986 or 1987, Czechoslovakia had not yet split into The Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Donor Dedication Card

Holocaust Torah Scroll Donors

In Memory of Sarah Mittleman
In Memory of David Podhaizer
In Memory of A. Samuel Rubenfeld
In Memory of Catherine Vallow
In Memory of Joshua Martin Weinberg

Dr. and Mrs. Bernard Amster
Dr. and Mrs. Alvin Arzt
Mr. and Mrs. Abe Berman
Dr. and Mrs. Harold Bess
Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Bressler
Dr. and Mrs. Bernard Broad
Mr. and Mrs. Murray Cohen
Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Dickler
Rabbi and Mrs. William Fierverker
Mr. and Mrs. David Fineman
Mr. and Mrs. Randall Flager
Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Frechtman
Mr. and Mrs. Al Gans
Mr. and Mrs. David Green
Mr. Nathan Grodsky
Dr. and Mrs. Boris Gutbezahl
Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Harvey
Mr. and Mrs. Irving Hasness
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Heck
Mr. David Jacobs

Misty Kahn
Rodney Kahn
Mr. and Mrs. Seymour Kaplan
Rochelle and Stuart Klein
Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Lazoff
Mr. and Mrs. Irwin Light
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Lutzker
Mr. and Mrs. David Lutzker and Sons
Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell Mitnick
Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Mittleman
Mr. and Mrs. Donald Munter
Mr. and Mrs. Sol Perez
Mr. and Mrs. Milton Pincus
Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Plavin
Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Pollock
Mr. and Mrs. Herman Rosenberg
Mr. and Mrs. David Rothstein
Mr. and Mrs. Milton Sommer
Drs. Elias and Eva Vlessing
Mr. and Mrs. Leon Wenter

Special Programs

Hidden Treasures Series Amazing Stories from Congregation Beth El Archives

Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day

Mon, October 25 2021 19 Cheshvan 5782