Temple Emanuel of Tempe

The Story of Our Torah Scrolls

Kardasova-Recice

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Kardasova-Recice is a small South Bohemian town in what’s now the Czech Republic. The first record of Jews living there was the 15th century, but evidence exists that Jews visited as early as the 13th century.

The Jewish population of Kardasova-Recice was comprised primarily of peddlers and traders living simple lives. They lived in a section of town called the “Jewish Quarter”. In 1708 their first synagogue was built, a wooden structure that stood in the middle of the Jewish Quarter. A fire demolished all of the Jewish Quarter homes and the synagogue in 1863. After just one year, however, all of the buildings were rebuilt. Beginning in the 17th century a Jewish cemetery was constructed just south of the town, where the majority of Jewish Kardasova-Recice residents were buried. The peak of the Jewish population was in 1857 with 160 Jewish families.

The last year Jews ever lived in Kardasova-Recice was 1942. That May, the remaining 19 families in residence were all transported to extermination camps. The synagogue was demolished in 1950, and the last Jewish funeral to be held in Kardasova-Recice took place in 1965. The Jewish cemetery still remains south of the town.

 

Pilsen

Pilsen

The second scroll (MST#136) on loan to Temple Emanuel is from Pilsen.

Pilsen is a large town in West Bohemia, Czech Republic. The first record of Jewish residence occurs in 1338, one of the earliest dates for Bohemia. During the 15th century, Jews are recorded to have been an important part of society. Nonetheless, they were expelled from Pilsen in 1504. Until 1848, Jews lived in nearby towns and only went into Pilsen to do business.

Pilsen was a regional center, and Jews from Western Bohemia and Prague traveled regularly to Pilsen’s markets. As such, they were a vital part of Jewish life.

In 1854, the town grew to 249 residential Jews and two years later, the first Jewish cemetery was consecrated. The first official synagogue was built in 1859.

Jews were a vital piece in making Pilsen an industrial center, but conflicts arose between the Czech Jews, Zionists, and Germans. In 1866 Anti-Semitic riots broke out on streets around town.

At the start of the 20th century the community was of the top five largest and most affluent in Bohemia. The Jewish population climaxed in 1938 as Pilsen became a Jewish refuge for the Sudetenland after Germany occupied that region. In March of 1939 the beginning of Jewish persecutions and arrests began in Pilsen, and the Jewish cemetery was destroyed soon after. However, the synagogue was spared because its desecration would have destroyed the surrounding city block. In 1942 more than 2000 people from Western Bohemia were gathered in Pilsen and later deported to the Nazi extermination camps. Six years later, following the Second World War, a community was reorganized in Pilsen numbering 293 Jews. They built a new cemetery in Pilsen, along with a memorial for the 3200 local victims of the Holocaust. Although the contemporary Jewish community of Pilsen has significantly decreased in numbers, it nonetheless survives to this day.

 

Photographs of the Scrolls

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Torah Scroll from Kardasova-Recice (MST#578)

Torah Scroll from Kardasova-Recice (MST#578)

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Torah Scroll from Pilsen (MST#136)

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Torah Scroll from Kardasova-Recice (MST#578)

Memorial Scrolls Trust

The Memorial Scrolls Trust is responsible for almost 1600 Czech Torah scrolls worldwide. The scrolls were rescued from the Holocaust by the Prague Jewish community and were brought to Westminster Synagogue, London, almost 50 years ago. Today, thanks to the work of the Memorial Scrolls Trust, these scrolls have been allocated on permanent or long term loan to synagogues, and take a message of hope, continuity and resilience to every corner of the globe.

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The Trust is a global center for learning, remembrance, and community.
For more information, visit www.memorialscrollstrust.org.