We are the congregation of Temple Beth Shalom, a small Reform synagogue in Winter Haven, Florida. Our campaign is to fund the restoration of the Czech Holocaust Torah Scroll that has its home with us since the mid-1980s.
This restoration is so meaningful to us for many reasons. First, all Torah scrolls are precious to us because the Torah is God’s gift, a sign of love for all of God’s people, and a blueprint for living that carried us through thousands of years. We are taught that the Torah scroll is not an object, but a living book, and many think of a Torah scroll as God’s daughter (so many refer to a Torah scroll as her). When we read from and share the Torah, and care for her, we acknowledge the love God shows us and reflect it.
This particular scroll is over 125 years old and is special because she was rescued from the Holocaust in 1942, was sheltered by the Memorial Scrolls Trust in the Westminster Synagogue of London, and placed in our care on permanent loan when we were a new congregation. She endured moves all around East Polk County with us until we acquired our own building in 2003, and was with us for numerous holidays, b’nai mitzvot, and Shabbat services. That she survived all of this history demands that she should continue. She still comes out for Yom Kippur and a few other events, but we have to be careful, and want her to be strong enough to share all of our occasions with us as she deserves.
It is not only our desire but our duty to restore our scroll because she and perhaps a few other things may be all that remain of the congregation that belonged to her in Caslav, Czechoslovakia. The Nazis cruelly determined that not only almost the entire population of Czech Jews would be exterminated, but there would be no one to remember them if they had graves to visit, or memorials to observe. In being a home for this scroll we accept the privilege of serving as the descendants of the Caslav Jews, and the responsibility of honoring their memory.
Not many of us are Czech, but we still have a shared heritage, love for the Torah, and responsibility to remember. Your donation will provide for the services of a sofer, a scribe specially-trained in the skills and art of writing and healing Torah scrolls. With your donation to our campaign, will you join us, and become a granddaughter or grandson to the Jews of Caslav, and help keep their memory alive?
Thank you so much for reading about the Torah scroll that we love, and for your donation. We appreciate your help also in sharing this appeal with your friends on Facebook, in text, and by email!
Sheila Walsh Leavey
Temple Beth Shalom Reform Jewish Congregation Of Winter Haven