Holocaust Torah in Haskell
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Holocaust Torah in Haskell

A 110-year-old Torah that had been saved on Kristallnacht will be in North Passaic County for Yom Kippur. That stop is part of a tour that will take the Torah to many Jewish communities worldwide.

Rabbi Mendy Gurkov of Chabad Jewish Center of Upper Passaic County said he hopes the Torah will inspire everyone at the center’s Yom Kippur services, to be held on Wednesday, September 19, at 11:30 a.m.

“This Torah truly captures the essence of our people,” he said. “Many have sought to destroy the Jewish people, but we’ve miraculously survived and we must continue our mission of repairing this world and revealing the light within it. The fact that this Torah will be with us on Yom Kippur captures this message of light, of hope and the promise of a brighter tomorrow.”

The Torah’s story is dramatic. On Kristallnacht, Isaac Schwartz, who lived in Hamburg, had just celebrated his bar mitzvah a month earlier, grabbed a Torah scroll as flames raged in the city’s main synagogue.

The family buried the Torah in their backyard. They escaped to Venezuela; when they returned to Hamburg, years later, and unearthed it, they found that it had sustained more damage. “Even if one letter is smudged or faded, the Torah is rendered useless,” Rabbi Gurkov said.

The scroll stayed with the family until three years ago, when Isaac Schwartz’s son contacted Miami Beach businessman Leonard Wien. Wien, whose mission was to restore destroyed German Torah scrolls as an homage to his family members and those who died in the Holocaust, bought the Torah from the family and had it restored. He hired two scribes who spent 18 months rewriting the faded letters and replacing the parts of the parchment that were beyond repair. Burn marks still are visible in the parchment. Then Wein donated the Torah to the Jewish Learning Institute.

For more information, call (201) 696-7609 or go to www.JewishHighlands.org.

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