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NNLS Czech Memorial Scroll

By Niki Jackson

At NNLS we have one of the Czech Memorial Scrolls which had been collected in 1942.

Over 1500 Torah scrolls and many other Jewish artifacts were kept initially in the Prague Jewish Museum and then after the war they were taken to the Michle Synagogue on the outskirts of Prague where they remained until they came to London in 1964.

Each of these scrolls represents the tragic lost communities during the Shoah.

The Czech Memorial Trust loaned communities these scrolls all around the world. This way more people can have a physical connection to these and honour the names and the memories of these lost Czech communities.

The origins of our scroll (Scroll Number #159) were not known for many years and it was classed as an ‘orphan scroll’. However in February 2021 we discovered that our scroll comes from the town Kdyne (Neugedein) near Domažlice in the Pilsen region of Czech. 

We discovered this because our scroll is wrapped in a long wimple/binder – pictured here - which has an embroidered inscription celebrating the birth of Eliyahu, son of Mordechai Kloiber/Klauber in 1879.

Tradition tells us that the wimple/binder may have been used to swaddle Eliyahu at his Brit Milah and then embroidered and donated to the community at a later date as a way of connecting Eliyahu to the Torah.

The inscription reads:

ז"נ [זאת נדב] האיש הישר הקצין כ"ה [כבוד הרב] מרדכי קלויבער מנייגעדיין ע"ב [עבור בנו] הק' [הקטן] אליהו יחי' [יחיה] הנולד במזל ח' שבט תרל"ט לפ"ק [לפרט קטן] ויזכהו לגד' [לגדלו] לת' [לתורה] לח' [לחופה] ולמעשים טובים א"ס

This was given by an honest man, head, esteemed mister Mordechai Klauber from  Kdyne (Neugedein) for his son, little Eliyahu, may he live, born to the luck of 8.shvat 5639 according to small number [8.Shvat1879 (1st Feb)]. And may he grow up to Torah, chupa and good deeds. Amen, sela.

Initially we were confused by reading the name of the place נייגעדיין because the gimmel and the Ayin were combined and made it look just like an Ayin but an expert at the Jewish Museum in Prague explained to us that this is called ligature, where the letters are often combined.

Coupled with this explanation was the discovery of a very similar wimple/binder in the Czech scrolls memorial trust, where the same father, Mordechai Kloiber, had had donated a binder/wimple for his elder son, Simon, in 1876 and on their wimple the town name was much clearer to read.

We have records that show that Mordechai Kloiber, the father on the inscription, was an active synagogue member in the 1870’s.

Our goal is to honour the  history of the Jews of Kdyne. We have an essay about their early history but we don’t yet know the fate of the Jews of this area during the second world war.

We know that Kdyne and a neighbouring town, Klatovy likely merged pre-World War 2 as Kdyne did not have enough people to warrant being a individual community.

However, we do know that there is still a synagogue in Kdyne today. It isn’t an active synagogue and there isn’t a Jewish community but it is still open as a memorial and we hope to visit one day soon.

Our scroll was initially gifted to the Archbishop of York in the 1960’s by the Czech Memorial Trust and then was passed to Rabbi Jonathan in 1988 via the Council of Christians and Jews so that the Torah would have a Jewish home.

When we received the scroll Robert Craig replaced the Etzim and we gave it a new cover.

Sadly the scroll is too damaged to read from and is not a Kosher Torah. However, we take out our Memorial Scroll each year on Yom HaShoah and place it on the bimah during our commemorative service.

We also have an educational programme as part of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah programme where we introduce the students to the history of the Czech scrolls and hope that they will see themselves as the guardians of our Torah and learn about Kdyne and other communities lost in the Shoah.

It has also been used occasionally at other events, including a bar mitzvah of one of our students who engaged in a whole project about the Memorial Scrolls as part of his Bar Mitzvah journey.

Our duties and responsibilities towards this Torah are to:

  • Remember European Jewish life before the Holocaust as well as its tragic destruction.
  • Remember both individual Jews and whole communities whose names might otherwise be forgotten.
  • Challenge those who interact with the scrolls to confront prejudice and hatred.
  • Inspire them to action by committing to their Jewish lives and working to build bridges across communities.

Our next steps are:

  • Find out more about the Jews of Kdyne and their fate during World War 2
  • Share the discovery that it is no longer an orphan Torah with the community both on Yom Hashoah but also on other opportunities
  • Forge a link with the community who holds the sibling binder and share stories with them.
  • Visit the synagogue in Kdyne and honour their history

Click here to learn more about the Memorial Scrolls Trust.

Mon, 20 May 2024 12 Iyyar 5784