Temple Shalom is privileged to be the custodian of a historic Torah scroll dating from the mid 1800s. It reached us by a long and tortuous journey from what is now the Czech Republic.
Jews were deported from this region during the Nazi occupation, leaving behind deserted synagogues and community buildings. A group of Jews at the Jewish Museum in Prague feared that unattended cultural and ritual treasures would be plundered or destroyed, so they submitted a plan to the Nazis to bring scrolls, books, and liturgical gold, silver, and textiles to the Museum for cataloguing and preservation. The Nazis created a task force, directed by Josef Polak; they worked as Nazi prisoners under increasingly oppressive conditions. Most of them were eventually deported to the Terezin concentration camp. Few survived.
The Torah scrolls from this collection were all transferred to Michle Synagogue in suburban Prague, where they came under the ownership of Czechoslovakia’s Communist government in 1948. In 1963, an American art dealer negotiated their sale to London’s Westminster Synagogue. The Memorial Scrolls Trust was established with the mission of integrating the Scrolls back into the life of Jewish congregations across the world and of keeping memories of their martyred communities of origin alive.
Lafayette congregants Max and Rae Muroff funded the long-term loan of Torah Scroll number 541 from the Memorial Scrolls Trust. The Scroll is one of only 216 whose specific origin cannot be established by the Trust. This Scroll has enriched ritual life in the Lafayette Jewish community for decades.
It is currently on display just outside the entry to the sanctuary. While its condition does not allow for regular use in services, in recent years it has frequently been read from at bar and bat mitzvahs.