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MKDRS visit Czech Republic with Torah Scroll

Representatives from Milton Keynes and District Reform Synagogue (MKDRS) took their Czech scroll (#970) to Pacov, a small community 50 miles south-east of Prague from which their scroll originated. They were attending events to commemorate 80 years since the deportation of the Jews from Pacov. 

In November 1942, the 97 Jews who then lived in Pacov were transported to Terezín (Theresienstadt) and later to Auschwitz concentration camps. All but six of the Pacov Jews eventually perished. No seniors or children survived – including the youngest Holocaust victim Helenka Schecková, who was 2 years old at the time.

No Jews now live in Pacov. However, in 2017 local residents set up Tikkun Pacov, an apolitical, non-profit organisation, with the objective of keeping alive the Jewish history and cultural heritage in the Pacov area. They purchased the old synagogue in 2018 and are in the process of renovating it. The synagogue was being used to store cars and was in a very dilapidated state. To date, they have replaced the roof and some windows, removed a mezzanine floor and restored the front façade.

Tikkun Pacov organised the weekend events as part of their efforts to raise awareness of what happened to the Jews of Pacov and to keep their memory alive.

The group from MKDRS were joined by approximately 30 other people who had connections with the Jewish communities in  Pacov and surrounding towns. The group consisted of people from the USA, UK, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, including members of Nottingham Liberal Synagogue and Jeffrey Ohrenstein, Chairman of the Memorial Scrolls Trust.

The highlight of the weekend was a service to bless the scroll in the Pacov Synagogue, led by Rabbi David Maxa from Ec Chajim Synagogue in Prague. This was the first time in over 80 years that a service had been held in the synagogue.

Other events over the weekend included visits to Terezín, the restored synagogue in Novy Cerekev, the Holocaust memorial at Černovice, talks by Holocaust survivors and a children’s choir singing poetry written by children interned at Terezín and set to music.

Scroll #970 is on permanent loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust based in Westminster Synagogue. The Trust had thought that the scroll dated from 1927. However, while on the trip, Rabbi Kevin Hale, a sofer who specialises in Torah restoration, examined the scroll and said it was actually 150 years older, dating from the late 18th century.

Martin Neville, Co-chair of MKDRS said “The trip was very emotional for all of us. With the establishment of Tikkun Pacov, the Jews of Pacov will not have died in vain. Their memory will live on forever.”

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