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Progressive Jew produces moving BBC Czech Scrolls programme

Philippa beside the scrolls in Westminster Synagogue. Credit: BBC
Philippa Bernard beside the scrolls in Westminster Synagogue. Credit: BBC

A member of Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue has produced a programme for the BBC World Service looking at the arrival of the Czech Scrolls in Britain.

Alexandra Strangwayes-Booth – who works for independent production company CTVC and specialises in religion, belief, faith and spirituality – made the show as part of the World Service’s Witness History series.

The episode takes the listener back to 7 February 1964, when 1,564 Torah and other Scrolls arrived from Prague to Westminster Synagogue.

Ralph Yablon, in collaboration with Rabbi Harold Reinhart, had orchestrated the acquisition of the Czech Scrolls, rescuing them from a damp former synagogue where they had endured the Nazi era and years of communism. Many are now on loan to Progressive and other communities around the world, creating an intimate link to the Jews and Jewish life so tragically destroyed in the Holocaust.

In the BBC programme, Alex talks to 91-year-old Philippa Bernard who was there on the day they arrived.

Philippa says: “I think it changed a lot of us, and changed the synagogue… it gave us something proud to do.

“All the Scrolls that are Kosher, that can be used, have gone. And when we first drew a map of where they are now, we were astonished to see there was hardly a nation or a continent where there wasn’t one of our Scrolls.”

Listen to the programme here.

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