At Shavuot, Or Chadash to dedicate orphan Torah scroll

Herb Cohn reads from Or Chadash's new Czech Torah scroll.

When Congregation Or Chadash formally received a Czechoslovakian Holocaust Scroll in December 2009, a once vital Czech Jewish community “was brought back to life,” says Rabbi Thomas Louchheim.

Scroll MST-1408, an orphan scroll that survived World War II, is on long-term loan to Or Chadash from the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London, and will remain with the synagogue as long as it exists.

In 1996, while Susan and Herbert Cohn were members of Temple Sinai in Lawrence, N.Y., the couple, along with Sue’s sister and brother-in-law, Rhoda and Val Yaverbaum, had arranged the loan of the same scroll in memory of their parents.

The Cohns moved to Tucson in 2005 and are now Or Chadash congregants. Last fall, the couple found out about the planned merger of their former Long Island congregation, which would precipitate Scroll MST-1408’s return to the trust. But the Cohns, along with the Or Chadash Board of Directors, acted quickly to secure the scroll for the congregation.

This Shavuot, which is also known as Z’man Matan Torah, “The Time of the Giving of the Torah,” Or Chadash will dedicate its newest scroll. The Talmud (b. Shabbat 86b-88a) suggests that the Ten Commandments were given on Shavuot and that the Torah, along with subsequent sacred writings of the rabbis, was married to the Jewish people at Sinai.

Or Chadash will celebrate the official marriage of Scroll MST-1408 to the congregation at the culmination of Torah Celebration Week on Friday, May 21 at 6:30 p.m. at its Shabbat service at Handmaker Services for the Aging, 2221 N.

Rosemont. (See additional Or Chadash Shavuot events on the Community Calendar, page 22.)

The unknown origin of the scroll and its survival through the Holocaust offers hope to the Jewish people with “this idea that Judaism can never die,” says Louchheim. Another example of this hope, he says, transpired around four years ago when Louchheim read a story from “Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng” by Xu Xin at each Friday Night Live! service.

“The kids would remember aspects of the story read the previous month. The stories were about real people brought to life as if we were living in that community,” says Louchheim, “just as we’re now bringing a Jewish community destroyed during the Nazi era back to life.”

“Having this scroll becomes a metaphor for our survival.”