Friday, 21 October 2016

The Scrolls of New London Synagogue - Come and Dance with Us & Them

It appears that the Antiques Roadshow is filming a special edition of the show featuring relics from the Holocaust. My mind went straight to the two Torah Scrolls we hold on behalf of the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust.
In the midst of the Holocaust, Czech Jews worked to bring their most treasured sacred inheritance to the relative security of Prague. Some 130,000 Jews, around 2/3rds of the community, were murdered by the Nazis, but some 1600 Torah scrolls survived. They sat, often in terrible conditions, until the 1960s when they were brought to England. Many have been restored and shared with communities not just back in the Czech Republic, but right around the world. You can read more about the history and work of the Trust [here -]. The two scrolls held by New London are both remarkable. One, from the town of Lipnik, contains all kinds of Kabbalistic scribal notions, strange curlicues on letters and unusual layouts. We don’t know the origin of our other Czech Scroll, but it is one of the most exquisite examples of the scribal art I have seen. You can read a wonderful short talk about Lipnik (given by our member Julian Futter in 2010) [here -].

But if you really want to understand these scrolls and the duty of care we accept for them, clicking won’t do. Instead you have to dance.

This Monday night at 6:30pm (with a tea for Reception-Year 3 from 6pm), we begin our celebration of celebrate Simhat Torah. On Tuesday morning we mark the moment where we finish and begin again our annual journey through our magnificent Torah. And, yes, there will be dancing. We dance because it’s an enormous honour to accept the guardianship of these scrolls and everything they stand for.

We’ll dance with the Czech scrolls.
We’ll dance with the [Kosmin scroll -] - given to the community in 2010, an immaculate piece of work commemorating the memory of Ronnie, a dearly beloved member.
We’ll dance with the Levinkind scroll sent by [Nathan Levinkind -], grandfather of our former member Julius, in 1891 from his home in Lithuania to ensure there would be a Torah scroll in Colesberg, South Africa, where his daughter was to set up her life.

And there are other scrolls we hold, and love and accept as trustees for not only for our members but also on behalf of our people through centuries and across continents. Throughout everything we are a people who have accepted the obligation of being bearers of scrolls that represent so much more than vellum and ink.

To hold these scrolls, to dance with these scrolls, to know what it means to reach the end of the marathon journey through the Five Books of Moses and begin again because you are physically there is an extra-ordinary honour. To anyone who has never experienced it, especially to those who have not experienced Simhat Torah New London style, I urge you to join us. If you have children bring the children (especially if they are on half-term!), they need to understand, to hold and to dance with their greatest spiritual inheritance also.

These scrolls are our most precious physical objects for they are so much more than physical objects. They are our spiritual inheritance, our history as a people and the bridge that connects us to the Divine.

To all our Torah Readers, and especially Lester, who have brought us to the brink of this extraordinary moment, thank you. To our wonderful honourees for the day, Stephen Lerman and Ann Rau-Dawes, thank you for all your support of this community. To us all,

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Jeremy

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