Ancient Torah Recovered From Nazi Occupied Europe Restored

Reach Reporter Madeline Anthony at (718) 260-4591. E-mail her at manthony@cnglocal.com.
Photo Courtesy of Calvary Hospital

A Torah recovered from Nazi- occupied Europe, dating back to the year 1880 has found a new home at Calvary Hospital.

According to Jewish Law, the Torah is a living document, and when it has become so worn that it can no longer be used, it must be buried.

However, Calvary, which specializes in end-of-life care, and whose philosophy states that “life continues on,” will bring this ancient script back to life rather than bury it.

Torah 515 has an extremely historic and significant meaning to the community because of its resilience through one of the greatest injustices in human history – the script was stolen by the Nazis from a synagogue in the town of Taus-Domazlice which is in modern-day Czech Republic.

It happened at a time when all Jewish ritual and sacred items were being looted or confiscated.

“This came out of the ashes of the Holocaust, and it is a light that will continue burning,” said Rabbi Rachmiel Rothberger, who is the Jewish community liaison at Calvary Hospital.

After enlisting the help of an expert Torah scribe to examine the script in 2014, it was found that while the damage was significant, reparation for this 135- year old script was possible.

The restoration is set to be a year-long endeavor, as it offically began in November of this year and is set to be completed by November of 2016.

The parchment needs to be repaired as parts are uneven and worn.

Most of the letters need to be re- written or re-blackened so they are legible.

This work will be done slowly and with precision by expert scribes called sofers who are trained how to write and repair ancient scripts.

To restore the Torah the document must be completely free of any blemish, meaning that all words must be complete, no letters can be missing, and it must remain free of unwanted marks.

The process to meet this goal is of course very intensive and time consuming due to the scrolls’ age and history.

“When you look at it, it’s not just parchment,” says Rothberger, “There’s something about it, and it’s still literally alive.”

Torah 515 is one of 1,564 Torahs that were rescued by the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London at the end of World War II.

The organization now lends out the scrolls to institutions, hospitals and schools all over the world, and has permanently loaned this particular Torah to Calvary Hospital.

“The Trust [Memorial Scrolls Trust] wants them to really be used,” said Rothberger. “I look forward to restoring life to this sacred scroll.”

Calvary Hospital has been working to establish the hospital’s commitment to Jewish patients and their families.

The hospital now has three rabbis on staff, a kosher pantry, and has worked with Yeshiva University to educate people on the Orthodox Jewish community since 2012.

On December 17, Calvary Hospital hosted an event on ‘Halachic End-of-life Care’ to educate community rabbis and leaders on the issues surrounding end-of-life care in accordance with Jewish law.

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