Holocaust Torah

The Legacy of the Rakovnick Torah

Nearly fourty-five years ago during the summer of 1973, a sacred memorial Torah scroll was dedicated at Temple Beth Elohim. What made this Torah scroll so special? The scroll, originally from Czechoslovakia, had been rescued from the Nazis. Today this sacred scroll remains on permanent loan at our temple.

The Rakovnik Torah is the oldest and most valuable item at Temple Beth Elohim. It was written in 1870 in the town of Rakovnik, 20 miles outside of Prague, Czechoslovakia. Jews living there in 1492, grew in numbers and acquired ten Torah scrolls in its synagogue. 

By the early 1900’s, the Jewish population began to decline. By 1921, there were only 298 people and in 1930, 153 people.

When WWII started, the Nazis took all of the sacred items from the temples in the area. They tagged and recorded every item and hid them in a warehouse in Prague.  There were no Jews in Rakovnik. The Nazis were convinced that they would destroy Judaism, so they planned to build a museum after WWII ended, showing how the Jews were destroyed. Fortunately, their plan never materialized.

The scrolls languished in a Prague warehouse until concerned Jews from the West pleaded for their release. After almost two long decades of waiting, the Westminster Synagogue in London received permission to obtain the scrolls. In 1973, Rabbi Herman Blumberg arranged for one of the Torah scrolls to be allocated on Permanent Loan. Torah #832 arrived in Boston during the summer of 1973. It was picked up at the Boston airport and brought to the temple by Rabbi Blumberg and temple member, Jack Price. It was put on display in the TBE atrium for all to view, along with pictures of the Rakovnik Synagogue and School until May, 2005.

On Holocaust Memorial Day 2005, the Rakovnik Torah was re-dedicated and dressed in a new mantel, breastplate and rimonim and placed permanently with our other Sifrei Torah in the ark in the Sanctuary. It has been used only on Holocaust Memorial Day and at Bar/Bat Mitzvah services when the child is a direct descendant of a Holocaust Survivor.

Jack Price
June, 2016

Information regarding the Memorial Scrolls Trust may be found at:

Memorial Scrolls Trust