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Kehillat Kernow on the Antiques Roadshow

It’s not every day a Sefer Torah takes pride of place in the Antiques Roadshow on BBC television but this coming Sunday the Kehillat Kernow community in Cornwall will be kvelling as its scroll that dates to the late 17th century becomes the star of the show. 

It has an intriguing history. In 1740 it was brought to Falmouth from Hamburg by Alexander Moses, known as Zender Falmouth, but when the community closed one hundred and forty years later in 1880 it was offered to Hampstead Synagogue in London. They apparently sent it back because it’s thought the restoration costs were too high. 

In 1892 the scroll was presented to the Royal Institution in Cornwall and stayed in the Royal Cornwall Museum until it was returned to the local community 9 years ago. 

With the parchment torn and every letter needing work, it was painstakingly restored by Torah scribe Bernard Benarroch. It’s a ‘Vav’ scroll with 53 lines per column on a light, mashuach coated parchment.

Sunday’s show was recorded at The Eden Project in the county. The Community’s chair Jeremy Jacobson OBE is thrilled at the attention.  

“It’s so fitting to picture the scroll here at the Eden Project. It’s a place created out of nothing to build relationships between people and the natural world. It’s the story of Creation. 

“This Sefer Torah is very special for our community. It’s our most sacred possession since it connects us to the original Cornish Jewish community. We see it as a never ending renewal of the past, the continuity of our community here, and the positive relevance of the Torah to the future. It’s one of the things that makes Judaism what it is.” 

Legend has it that Jews arrived in Cornwall over a thousand years ago. After all the County still has towns such as Marazion, which some say means Jewish Market in Cornish. And Penzance boasts Market Jew Street. Sadly though, the stories are probably apocryphal but Jewish communities were established in the region in the 18th century. 

The Kehillat Kernow community, Kehillat meaning Jewish community, and Kernow the ancient form for Cornwall, came into being in 1999. They’re associated with the Movement for Reform Judaism and hold fortnightly Shabbat services conducted by volunteers and students from Leo Baek College. 

This Sunday’s Antiques Roadshow airs at 8 pm on Sunday on BBC One. 

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