United Airlines “Hemispheres” Magazine, December, 2017 issue: “Sacred Passenger”


I could not let it pass that my picture appears on page 14 of the December 2017 issue of the United Airlines “Hemispheres” magazine. Thanks to my friend Michael Hayat for all the hard work getting us the red carpet treatment last month! If you happen to be flying “The Friendly Skies” this month, see if you can snag me a copy, will you? Ping me and I will get you my snail mail address! 🙂

Now on to the main topic of this blog post:

From the November edition of “Chajejnu” the Olomouc Jewish Community Magazine

This was the best I could do with Google Translate from the Czech!

From Rabbi Corey Helfand, Peninsula Sinai Congregation

Continuing from the November issue: Lech Lecha!

When we later were in Prague, Cantor Doron, Steve Lipman, Linda Oberstein and I, we went through a Jewish Neighborhood, we visited the local Synagogues, the Chevre Kadisha and Old Jewish cemetery. There was a monument To the Kli Yakar, Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz, who was a great scholar Torah of the sixteenth century. The Kli Yakar in his commentary on Parshat Lech Lecha expresses one interesting idea: the phrase לך לך — means go ,we have to go לעצמותך, for yourself, as part of exploring the Our עצם, our essence, the core of our identities. What makes Abraham’s journey so strange is that it wasn’t only about physical movement and territorial change. He left everything behind. It was a spiritual journey.

This moment “Lech” The physical identity was also about the reinforcing the hidden part of our souls. I perceive it as if our journey with the Torah was just about the physical Transport for for 6000 miles, the search of financial resources and telling a story, as well as the spiritual and emotional dimension.

As many of you have seen in the photos, traveling with Torah we felt like VIPs. In San Francisco, we were on escorted on board the aircraft 30 min. early, before the other passengers, we posed for photographers with On-board staff, while we sang “Etz Haim”, The Tree of Life is Torah.
The flight crew was touched to hear our story, including one flight attendant who has a Jewish friend and was with him at Yom Kippur. Also, our Pilot, a pious and spiritual woman who was so struck that she came out before the flight to see and touch the scroll.

Random bystanders at airports as in the United States and Frankfurt, included one woman in Frankfurt who was originally upset that our “golf clubs” (the Torah Scroll was transported in a “glof club bag”) as were sitting on the seat in the boarding area to Prague. After we told her the story of the scroll, she confided that Her family comes from Olomouc.

After we arrived in Prague, we spent the evening and the following morning touring the Jewish Quarter and then we then boarded the RegioJet Train to Olomouc. There we were warmly welcomed Roman Gronský, Jocelyn and Doron’s cousin, the man who was probably responsible for this whole action

After a quick stay in our hotel we went to the museum, where we saw a festive opening of the Exhibitions Olomouc Synagogue 1897-1939. Although we did not understand most of the ceremony because it was in Czech, we were clearly feeling warm and acknowledged that the Torah was coming home.

From Peter Briess (who was present as a young boy in Olomouc and remembers the Rabbi Oppenheim, reading from the scroll before the Synagogue was destroyed by the Nazis at the start of the occupation in March 1939. Rabbi Oppenheim was deported and killed in Auschwitz by the Nazis.)

… I can describe the return of the coil Torah to Olomouc as a very special event. I think it was The first time one of the Czech scrolls had been returned. How sad it is that the original splendor of the synagogue from which it originated was burned. This senseless destruction for me symbolizes indescribable brutality.

I can ‘t forget the life the enterprising Jewish community. With 2200 members who once lived here. I visited with our relatives and friends. I put myself back home. It should be noted that during the thirty years when the community existed (1897-1939) the municipality of Olomouc was very successful and built a spectacular Synagogue.

I think the exhibition that is this synagogue was beautiful and illustrates this fact. Was
I am struck by the fact that it is located at the Archdiocesan Museum. Unfortunately, I could not attend the festive opening of this exhibition. But I joined the beautiful synagogue services led by American rabbis at Shabbat and, of course, also excellent organised and prepared events on Sunday October 22nd.

I was learned with Rabbi Moshe Druin the Sofer who repaired our Torah) and was very emotional. I had the great joy that I was asked to do a Hakafah with the newly Kosher scroll by Petr Papuusek. I knew his grandfather Milos and I have the greatest admiration for Petr for what he has achieved in conducting this community for the last few years.

I hope the newly repaired Torah will, for many years, be safe and kept by the community for many years and be used regularly.

The souls of our ancestors would certainly be pleased. I would also like to express my pleasure from well prepared snacks and also the opportunity and great honor to meet Jeffrey Ohresteina, Roman Gronsky and other important guests.

Thank you all involved for the absolutely wonderful day for which I will never forget.

With the desire of all good…

(Photo caption: Last taken photo P. Briess and his sisters together with their grandparents Shul just before their departure from Czechoslovakia.)

Then there is a piece that I blogged about in the last issue of this blog on Kurt the Hairdresser.”

See November 10th: Kurt the Hairdresser: Another amazing layer to the Olomouc Story

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Kurt the Hairdresser: Another amazing layer to the Olomouc Story

Are you ready for another incredible layer to the Olomouc Torah story?

On our walks to-and-from the Hotel Arigone to the Jewish Community building in Olomouc we always passed by the Olomouc Art Museum (Denisova 47, 771 11 Olomouc, Czech Republic [tel.: +420 585 514 111; e-mail: info@olmuart.cz ].


The Art Museum hosted the historical exhibition of the old Jewish Synagogue Building that was destroyed by the Nazis on the first day of their occupation of Olomouc in 1939. They hosted a Gala opening ceremony during our visit, on October 19th at the Archbishop’s Palace to a standing-room-only crowd of hundreds of people.


The Olomouc Art Museum was the place where us tourists, with some degree of bemusement, watched the “hanging guy” (as we called him) traverse his way along the ledge every hour on the hour, grunting and yelling and squirming as he went. It is actually the work of artist David Černý and is a mechanical moving sculpture, that dangles from the museum facade, slowly creeping along its ledge. I’m told it is supposed to represent an “art thief” making his escape. Even if it wasn’t supposed to be funny, we all laughed!


The so called “Hanging Guy” from the Olomouc Art Museum.

Well, it turns out there is another connection to our trip! It starts with the story of Kurt the Hairdresser. What’s that you say?

All of the women in my Mom’s family have, for decades, been going to a hair dresser in Los Angeles named Kurt Ralston. My Bubbie Ruth Sternhill (Z’L) started going to him in the 1950s and she was followed at various times by my Mom, Sherri, her sisters Fritzi, Leslie and Maryl and their children Becky and Erin.

To hear Bubbie talk about him, Kurt was almost an honorary member of the family!

My Bubbie, Ruth Sternhill (Z’L). Kurt did her hair for years at his salon in Sherman Oaks, CA.

Literally as my plane touched down in SFO from Prague, My Aunt Leslie emailed me to tell me that Kurt is from Olomouc! And, according to Kurt’s wife, Judy,

Kurt lived in the building that today houses the Olomouc Art Museum!

“Kurt (Harry) Reichenbaum, and all his relatives (The Donaths) on his mothers side, were all born in the house that today houses the Olomouc Art Museum!”

How’s that for an incredibly small world?

As I wrote in blog posts before, “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!”

Kurt’s “coming to America” story is amazing, in and of itself.

Kurt was a 9 year-old boy in 1938-39. Just days before his family left Olomouc, with the Nazis fast on their heels, Kurt contracted Scarlet Fever . Having no choice, Kurt’s family made the difficult choice to leave him behind, in the care of others.


When Kurt recovered, he made his was to New York City alone on a boat that he was told would be waiting for him in Italy. When the boat arrived in New York, no one came to meet him. Why? When a distant relative heard he was on the boat and came to find him, he told Kurt “We didn’t come to meet you because we thought you had died.”




But survive Kurt did, and he made his way to Chicago and then to Los Angeles where he attended Hollywood High.

Famous Hollywood High alumni include: Valerie Bertinelli, Vincent Bugliosi, Carol Burnett, Keith Carradine, Robert Carradine, Lon Chaney, Jr., Warren Christopher, Laurence Fishburne, John Huston, Alan Ladd, Carole Lombard, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Ritter, Jason Robards, Mickey Rooney, and Joseph Wapner, just to name a few.

At Hollywood High, Kurt was a star football player, and a self-proclaimed ‘jock.’ Kurt needed a job after graduating high school, so a friend with a hair salon in Beverly Hills convinced Kurt to attend cosmetology school. Kurt has been a hair dresser ever since. He reports that as a young man, “it was a great way to meet beautiful women!

Kurt, and his wife Judy, live in Sherman Oaks. At 87, Kurt is still styling hair for the “beautiful women” of the San Fernando Valley. I’d like to think that list list of clients includes, my Aunts, their children and grandchildren, and occasionally my Mom.

Bubbie, if you’re reading this, I hope you are smiling down from heaven! (Bubbie’s Yartzeit is 12 Cheshvan, November 1st, 2017)


If you are ever in LA and need to have your hair cut/styled, check out Kurt’s salon at 13632 Moorpark St., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423. Tell him Ruth Sternhill sent you. Kurt will get a kick out of it! 🙂

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The road to to Cheske Budejovice–Silent witnesses from our second Czech Sefer Torah

On the way down to the Czech southern border with Austria, I decided to make a brief pitstop in the Czech town of Cheske Budejovice which is the home of our 2nd Torah scroll at PSC from the Czech Republic.

Cheske Budejovice is also known as Budvar in German which may sound familiar to you consume the King of Beers

According to Wikipedia:

Anheuser–Busch has been involved in a trademark dispute with European beer companies, in particular the Budweiser Budvar Brewery of České Budějovice, Czech Republic, over the trademark rights to the name “Budweiser”. Beer has been brewed in České Budějovice (known as Budweis in German) since it was founded by King Ottokar II of Bohemia in 1245. The name Budweiser is a derivative adjective, meaning “of Budweis”. In 1876, Adolphus Busch and his friend Carl Conrad, a liquor importer, developed a “Bohemian-style” lager in the United States, inspired after a trip to the region.

But I digress 😉

All during this trip we’ve been talking about the Olomouc Scroll’s return to its ancestral home and rightfully so. But did you know we had a second Torah scroll from the Czech Republic? The 2nd large scroll in our Ark comes from the town of Cheske Budejovice which is located in the southern Czech area near the Austrian border known as the Sudetenland.

History buffs might recall that in 1938 the Munich agreement ceded areas along the German border with Czechoslovakia and Austria to Germany. That area is known as the Sudetenland and that’s exactly where Cheske Budejovice is located.

I decided to make the trip down to Cheske Budejovice As I sat holding the 2nd Sefer Torah during Yom Kippur services while the Rabbi was giving his sermon. As I sat with the scroll I could not help but think of all the people that had lived in that town over the years and I decided that I really wanted to see what it looked like so that I could share that vision with the PSC community.

It is beautiful country as you can see from these photographs. It is part of the area known as the Czech lake district and the fall foliage was on full display as we drove South from Prague toward Cheske Budejovice.

It is ironic that after the 1938 annexation of the Sudetenland by Germany that many of the Jews were expelled from their homes and businesses in the area and it may have allowed some of them to escape the clutches of Nazi Germany, at least temporarily. Today there is nothing left of that community.

The synagogue in Cheske Budejovice was a grand Gothic-style building but unfortunately was completely destroyed by the Germans during World War II. All that is left is a small stone monument in the middle of Cheske Budejovice where the building once stood.

The visit was brief and so I decided to try and take as much of it in as I could so that I could report back to my friends from PSC what that area looks like. Perhaps you can join me this Shabbat morning and have a brief L’Chaim at Kiddush lunch to the Jews that perished from Cheske Budejovice and to the synagogue that no longer exists in that area. Our Torah scroll is a silent witness to that community and we should honor it as we honor them.

May the memories of the Jews that perished in Cheske Budejovice be for a blessing and let’s think of them each time we use their Torah Scroll in our community in the future.

יהי זכרונותיהם לברכה

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Tereizin: Banality, Bureaucracy, Gross Demented Brutality and Bucolic tree-lined streets

The title about sums it up for me. The 6 hours I spent today touring The Tereizin Concentration Camp were very different from the only other time I was there in 1998. That was my first concentration camp visit and the temperature on that date was hovering somewhere around 9 degrees F. (That’s COLD by anyone’s definition!) I had every piece of warm clothing I owned on me and I could not help wondering how a beaten, half-starved and tortured inmate wearing pajamas and wooden shoes could survive when I was barely coping in my Polar Fleece. I recall glancing at my watch while contemplating this in the punishment cell of the Small Fortress where the Nazis meted out endless batches of brutality. 1 PM…where was I 24 hours later at 1 PM? Standing in the middle of Kikar Zion in Jerusalem, eating a felafel, on a gorgeous, sunny, warm Fall afternoon. Context, right?

This trip seemed different almost for the word go. I was on a private guided tour (and not with 200 UJA mission participants)/ My two traveling companions were from Miami, FL. The temperature this day was about 60 F. So warm I was stripping off layers.

I’ve said repeatedly that it was difficult for me to put parts of this trip in context and this part of the journey was no exception. What struck me this time was the banality and bureaucracy of the place and the stark beauty of the tree-lined streets with Fall Foliage. Walking through the Small Fortress with absolutely no context and you’d think you were in a Spa or a weekend retreat summer camp. Maybe that’s what the Nazis who live there told themselves which made their crimes all the more incomprehensible. If you were in a barren shit hole death factory like Auschwitz/Birkenau or Treblinka, I’m guessing it was more business. This looked like summer camp!

Our first stop on the journey was the railroad station at Praha-Bubny. It’s a rather decrepit, seldom used station on the main Prague to Berlin line just over the river and outside the Jewish Quarter.

Praha-Bubny was the mustering station for the vast number of deportations of Jews from Prague and where most began their journey to death at Tereizin. Startlingly few people survived Tereizin, either from the abuse they suffered or because they were transported along to Auschwitz or other death camps. The Nazis would march prisoners late at night or early in the morning past non-descript apartment buildings to the station. One can only wonder what those residents thought at the daily marches past their windows. Maybe they averted their eyes? What could they do after all? Our guide gave an even sadder take that the vast majority of Czechs did practically nothing to oppose the Nazis. There were some small acts of civil disobedience but nothing to really affect what was going on. Made it all the more sad for me because this is such a beautiful country. One, for example, that was tremendously supportive to the fledgling State of Israel in 1948. But why nothing in 1942 when it counted…puzzling?!

The Memorial with the rail tracks was constructed recently and represents many things, the journey to infinity/oblivion; or perhaps, Jacobs Ladder (angels going up and down); or one other explanation was the 36 rail ties, to represent the “Lamed Vavnicks

thirty-six righteous men in every generation upon whose merit the world is kept from entire destruction. Based in part on the story of Abraham and his conversation with the Lord about the destruction of Sodom in Genesis 18, the Lamed Vavniks are those who, by virtue of their compassion for others and the prayers they offer, cause the Lord to answer, “I will spare all the place for their sakes” (Genesis 18:26).

Whatever reason, this was step 1 in the journey for most.

45 minutes of so later we were at the Small Fortress. Tereizin was build originally as a military garrison by the Emperor Joseph II of Amadeus fame (Too Many Notes ). I coudn’t really bring myself to take any photos in the Small Fortress. I wanted to be a witness and not a tourist, at least for this part of the journey. The first thing that struck me was the utter banality of the prisoner processing. First stop was a clerk who registered the prisoners details, then the assignment of “clothing” which consisted of old WW1 German army uniforms. That and with a shaved head made the prisoners stand out even more than a sore thumb so escapes from Tereizin were almost unheard of.

We also saw the cell there of Gavrilo Princip, assassin of Archduke Ferdinand which set in motion WWI. From 1914 until 1918, Gavrilo Princip was imprisoned here, Princip died in Cell Number 1 from tuberculosis on April 28, 1918.

Adjacent to the bureaucratic processing was the Gestapo torture cells and the offices of the camp commendant SS-Hauptsturmführer Siegfried Seidl who served as the first camp commandant, beginning in 1941. Small wooden desks where you could almost see some bespecticled clerk processing paperwork in an office. Weird…

Walking under the recently repainted “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign (I think it is not an original) did not have the same stunning impact it had pon my in 1998. Maybe I was in a different head space. We marched past the execution grounds where 57 were murdered on practically the last day of the war. Extermination took no holiday even when all hope was lost for the Nazis.

Later we visited the Main Plaza across the river in the Large Fortress. Many might recall the infamous Red Cross visits in 1943 and 1944 where the world assured itself that the Nazis were not mistreating prisoners. Sickening in today’s context but with all the genocide and mistreatment we have become numb to today, is it really?

Succumbing to pressure following the deportation of Danish Jews to Theresienstadt, the Germans permitted representatives from the Danish Red Cross and the International Red Cross to visit in June 1944. It was all an elaborate hoax.

What struck me about the plaza was its beauty particularly with the Fall Folaige.

Inside the Jewish Museum were huge long lists of deportations to Tereizin and transports out to places like Riga and Auschwitz, including one on April 18, 1942 from Cheske Budovice Torah and a place I hope to be able to visit later in the week and one particularly striking final deportation to Tereizin on April 15, 1945…less than 4 weeks before the end of the war!

There was also a stunning visit to the recently discovered “Hidden Synagogue” in Tereizin. Not but for a highly secular community, it was stunning to see how people seemed to want to engage with religious tradition when faced with tbeir tragic fates.

I almost cannot bring myself to show pictures of the Crematorium built very late in the war after the Nazis became overwhelmed with bodies of dead inmates they could not bury (the sheer numbers and a very high water table). One thing to notice was the bureaucratic nature of theirs even in death. Ashes placed in paper bags with the names of prisoners. These were stored in the morgue where prisoners were assured that they could return after the war was over to claim their family members’ remains. Prisoners given day passes to attend the rites for their lost family members. At some point, in an effort to cover the traces of their crimes, the Nazis took large numbers of these bags and dumped the ashes in the nearby river.

One last point to mention, something that adds an even more bizarre layer to this place is the fact that people still live in and around this place. In some cases it’s developmentally diabled adults. In other cases it’s workers at the nearby Ford Parts factory. WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MINDS WOULD CHOOSE TO LIVE NEAR THIS PLACE? (\soapbox).

All in all a deeply disturbing visit but also one I am glad I was able to describe here, both to help me process the experience and also to bear witness to the thousands that passed through here on the way to their final fate. Some, like the 87-year old Tereizin survivor Linda and I interviewed in Olomouc last Sunday kept popping into mind.

For a nice factual history of Terezin including some of prominent people imprisoned or murdered there, see:

Terezin History

Yhi Zichronotayhem Baruch!

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Press mentions of the Olomouc Torah Story

Our story is starting to see a lot of traction in the media in various forms, so I thought I would use this space to capture some of the press mentions. If you find others, please let me know!


We made the big time in the Israeli Press. I wonder if we got picked up in any other publications? On Su day there was a JTA Reporter from Warsaw present, I was told.

Without getting into all the details, the story was well written and got most of the facts and color right though they did misidentify PSC sort of. The reporter identified us as “Hatzi-Ha-ee Sinai” which is technically correct because “Hatzi-Ha-ee” does mean “Peninsula” in Hebrew but there were also other transliterations like for “United Airlines“. I don’t get it!

In a related posting, the Masorati (Conservative Movement in Israel) posted the following to their FB Page

מרגש! בבית הכנסת קונסרבטיבי בסן פרנסיסקו שמרו במשך שנים על ספר תורה עתיק מהכפר אוֹלוֹמוּץ שבצ׳כיה, אחרי שהוברח ממנה במהלך השואה. לאחרונה גדלה הקהילה בכפר הצ’כי, ואלו ביקשו מהקהילה האמריקאית את ספר התורה. קהילת “חצי האי סיני” שם נשמר ספר התורה תיקנה אותו ורב הקהילה המסורתית, נסע להשיב את ספר התורה למשכנו המקורי. חברת “יונייטד” סייעה בהעברת ספר התורה, והושיבה את ספר התורה במושב משלו- עם כרטיס עליה למטוס משלו “Torah”.
Peninsula Sinai Congregation

Translated it reads:

A Conservative Synagogue on San Francisco took care of an ancient Torah Scroll from the town of Olomouc. in the Czech Republic after it was smuggled out during the Holocaust. Soon the Czech Congregation grew and asked the American Conservative Torah Scroll (back). Congregation “Half an Island Sinai” (yeah I know that sounds weird but they took the Hebrew idiom for “Peninsula” and used that rather than transliterating “Peninsula”) that watched over the scroll and repaired it and the Rabbi of the COnservative Congregation traveled to return the scroll to it’s original home. United assisted in the transfer of the Torah, placed the scroll in its own seat and with a boarding pass that read Torah/Torah.


This one appeared a few days before the trip and gave some color as to what to expect in Olomouc before we got there.

From the Czech News Agency from a few weeks ago (Thanks Jeff Blutinger and Weslaw)

10/9/17 Czech News Agency 00:00:00
Czech News Agency
Copyright (c) 2017 CZECH News Agency
October 9, 2017

California synagogue returning Torah scroll to Czech Olomouc
A parchment scroll of Torah dating from 1880 will be returned to Olomouc’s prayer room as a permanent loan from the Jewish community in Foster City, California, at the end of October, Petr Papousek, chairman of Olomouc’s Jewish community, has told CTK.
It will be the first Torah returned out of the 1,500 Bohemian and Moravian scrolls that are stored outside the Czech Republic nowadays, Papousek said.
The scroll will be festively installed in the Jewish prayer room on the occasion of the Jewish Culture Days in Olomouc on October 22.
“The return of the Torah to Olomouc is a historic event not only for Olomouc’s Jewish community, but also for the town,” Papousek said.
The scroll had to be restored and the writing had to be repaired professionally. The last letters will be finished just before the scroll’s festive delivery into the prayer room, he added.
After Olomouc’s synagogue was set ablaze at night on March 15, 1939, it was pulled down. The scrolls were gathered in the emerging Central Jewish Museum in Prague at first.
During the turbulent post-WWII period, the museum was nationalised and the scrolls were moved to a former synagogue in Prague’s Michle neighbourhood.
In 1963, under the Communist regime, the torahs from Michle and other scrolls, a total of 1,564 pieces, were sold to the congregation of the Westminster Synagogue in London, which established the Memorial Scrolls Trust to preserve and restore them.
The trust lends them to Jewish congregations across the world, particularly to the USA.
The Jewish Culture Days are to take place on October 19-29 and will include an exhibition on the vanished Olomouc synagogue, an international conference on changes in the life of Jews, a theatre performance and a lecture by Israeli photographer Yosaif Cohain among other events.
This year, the Jewish Culture Days are dedicated to the 120th anniversary of the consecration of the Olomouc synagogue and the 150th anniversary of the birth of Berthol Oppenheim, the town’s rabbi who was murdered in the Treblinka wartime extermination camp.


More from IDNES The Czech Republic’s largest daily online and print circulation newspaper.


Of course most everyone saw Vic Lee on the ABC 7 Local News the day we took off from SFO. My friend Greg Cecil said he saw a version of this story on his local newscast in Columbia, MO but not sure if it got picked up nationally on ABC or other TV outlets? Any sightings people?


Random sighting in the UK Press makes me famous on two continents! 😉


Nice picture of all of us on the plane to Frankfurt. United really rolled out the red carpet for us. Thanks Michael Hayat, and Andrea Hiller from United PR!


How’s your Czech? This is from The Czech Republic’s largest circulation daily. I tried to find a hard copy in Prague and in Olomouc but I struck out. Apparently this is partly online and partly print copy. This appeared in the Olomouc version of IDNES.

Just gotta throw this one in as a ROTFL moment from one of our Flight Tracker groupies, Michael Hayat (we had several, to be fair but this was the best and nearly gave Doron and I a spit-take at 37K feet over Manitoba! Good one Michael! 😁


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our PSC Go Fund Me campaign that helped to make the Torah repairs possible in the first place. Thank you Donors!

A little back to the future action from 1970 when the scrolls were originally brought to PSC from from London and the Scrolls Trust.

From the “Burlingame Advance-Star” (anyone remember that paper?) from April 7, 1970 featuring founding PSC Member Mel Bloom Z’L (Jayne Bloom and his widow who sent me copies of these stories.) Jayne and Mel carried both Czech scrolls to California from the Westminster Synagogue in London in 1970. Our synagogue was just 2 years old at the time and meeting in San Mateo. This helps fill in a couple of holes in the story!


Our own J weekly got the ball rolling on the coverage and I’m told they were very excited to cover it! Thanks Dan Pine, News Editor of the J!


About the Olomouc Museum Exhibit we viewed last week in Olomouc.


Another random mention.


French site.


From the U.K..


Rabbi Corey gets a shout out in his hometown Kansas City newspaper. Mazel Tov!


Another follow on story from IDNES, the largest online daily in the Czech Republic. Plug in to Google Translate to get a serviceable translation. Mostly focusing on Sunday’s dedication ceremonies.

From Olomouc’s Jewish Paper Chayenu

Sorry for the truncated, rough English. Blame Google Translate 😁

This is our life – HEM CHAJEJNU 18 Review Bulletin 22 23 Our Life Volume 9 / Number X. List of the Jewish Communities Olomouc November 2017 On Sunday, 2nd day of the month of the Cheshvan of 5778, corresponding on 22 October 2017, with We will be blessed, we, the Jewish community of Olomouc, hereby accept our Torah, registered by the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London, England under number # 740. In cooperation with this organization, the Peninsula Sinai community, Foster City, California, and Sofer on site, Miami, Florida, we celebrate this historic moment of returning our Torah back to its place of origin. Let this moment consecrate memories of the members of the Jewish community in Olomouc who are no longer among us, those who built this community and all those who died in Shoah. Let the light of this Torah, inspired by our ancestors’ links, shine ever brighter and may make our community elevated and show us the way to the future. By accepting this Torah scroll, we, the Jewish community in Olomouc, we accept the commandments and traditions embodied in our Torah. We and all of our community will strive to continue in Jewish life as those who profess: Šema Jisrael Ado-Elo-hejno Ado-nej Echad! By completing this Torah scroll, we connect to the traditional exclamation: Chazak, chazak, venitchazek! Let the glory of the legacy of our past strengthen our present efforts so that we can bravely walk towards the future

Very personal – very personal! Impossible to become a Reality Impossible to become a reality, I would briefly describe the return of the Olomouc scroll of the Torah to the Motherhood. When I began to correspond with the Westminster Synagogue and the Memorial Scrolls Trust more than two years ago, I only hoped that my intention would succeed. But I thought it would be a pity to strike back the return of our “Torah” scroll when I found out where it was. This, which only a few members of our ZOO believed, turned out to be a tangible act. It was a series of emails, phone calls and personal meetings with Jeffrey Ohrenstein in London and New York, regardless of my costs. When I did everything “pre-cooked”, I joined Petra Papouška as the boss of our ZOO who made this difficult task to the winning end. I believe that not only we, but also our descendants and followers, will use this scroll of the Torah and will never leave Olo-mouk again. I can be proud of the fact that the scroll of the Torah, which has seen my grandparents, father and other relatives on a regular basis in today’s magnificent synagogue today, will continue to radiate the importance of the past with today and the tomorrow of our village. Roman Gronsky I was perhaps the only one who went to the former synagogue … … Peter Briesse said, who had come to welcome the Olomouc scroll of the Torah from the United States. “It was very, very moving. After all, I went to the synagogue even when the scroll was used in it … I was when, in 1938/39, the Rabbi Oppenheim read this Torah. I was a seven-year-old boy. For me, it is especially important that this Torah returns to Olomouc. I welcome her at home and I wish this commune many years of happiness, safety and success. “Amen. Let us add that in the Olomouc synagogue they had the wedding of Peter Briesse’s parents. Their wedding ceremony was held in the Olomouc Synagogue on June 29, 1929. In 1931, his parents, Hans Briess and Else Schulhof, the son of Peter (see photograph here) and in 1936 Hana’s daughter. On the occasion of their wedding, Berlold Oppenheim, a former rabbi from Olomouc, wrote a letter to the bride Else, who has Peter Briess in his archive. And since these days we are commemorating both the Anniversary of the dedication of the Olomouc Synagogue and the anniversary of the birth of Rabbi Oppenheim, let us introduce here the second part of Oppenheim’s letter (the whole text of the letter with further information can be found in Chajejn 2012/11), the bride, this time in translation Mrs. Hany Mayer: Letter to the Bride “As a rabbi, I give you a prayer book, as a memorial to this festive moment, for the 90th birthday of my dear mother, and for the special recognition of the charitable action of your highly respected and honorable father whose life in the field of genuine Jewish love for neighbors and charity in favor of those affected by poverty and oppression, be also a pre-order for your house. Let your house be the source of Jewish faith, Jewish spirit and Jewish love for your neighbor. Let your father’s merit be God’s blessing for your path of life and the foundation of your continual happiness. Let the prayers of this book in which you turn to the Almighty always be prayers of praise and thanksgiving for the nothingness-disturbed happiness that you will experience with the man of your choice. This is my wish and my prayer. Dr. B. Openheimer Rabbi Rabbi Moshe Druin, the driver who corrected the olo-moss scroll on the occasion of the Torah’s deposition in Aaron ha-kodesh, said this: I am very honored to have repaired this Torah and that I may be the messenger of the Jewish people. But we all know that the Torah without people does not mean anything. But the Jewish nation without the Torah … does not even know anything. B-h, the Jews and the Torah are single. Jeffrey Ohrenstein Memorial Scroll Trust London “In 1964, 1564 Torah sculptures were bought from the Czech Communist Government and transported to London, where our Memorial Scroll Trust was founded to care for them. Until then, these scrolls lay in an inappropriate, damp synagogue where their condition has continued to deteriorate. And no doubt if you do

Very personal – very personal! were not saved at that time, many of them would be lost. It is an incredible honor and joy that we can bring this Torah back to Olomouc. “Page 5 I do not often happen to you … I wish you long luck and joy with this Torah that came to you. My lady had tears in my eyes … said Daniel Meron, Ambassador of the State of Israel to the Czech Republic. His wife’s family, Mrs. Jill, has its roots in Olomouc. “As an Ambassador of the State of Israel, I consider my duty to participate in similar events of Jewish life here. Rabbi Moshe Druin finished the Torah scroll on Sunday morning, and I, along with others, had the honor to take part in it. “The second Simchat Tora Steve Lipman, a member of the American congregation of Peninsula Sinai who accompanied the Torah to Olomouc, noted this festive moment on his blog: “The Torah came to the synagogue from the back in the hands of Rabbi Helfanda. Our Torah, Torah Memorial Scroll Trust and now: The Olomouc Torah. Her hands were stretched to touch her, she was carried several times around the womb (Olomouc practice is orthodox). Then she was placed in the vault, where she would wait until Sunday, for the last corrections of the last letters from the driver Mosheo Druin. Torah scroll written in 1880, a scroll that survived the Nazi persecution, which nearly destroyed the Jewish communities in this country. A scroll that has survived Communist persecution. Svitek, who had been honored in our Aaron Ha-Kodesh for 47 years, and from whom I had the honor to read before he became righteously unfit and needed repair. The Svitk, which was transported by 9,000 km by plane, by train, by car … was now returned to his original home to remain there for good. Let’s think about it … and realize: It has never happened before! “When the Torah was finished I was crying. And this is not happening to me often, “said Petr Papoušek, chairman of the Jewish community in Olomouc. “I hope that the return of this Torah scroll will bring new energy and enthusiasm for our village.” Peter Briess, on the left, on completing the letter of the Olomouc scroll together with rabbi Moshe Druin, who has returned our kosher status to his Torah by his work. Upon completing the correction of individual letters, he had a story about the meaning of the letter and the word that was repaired for everyone. This only deepened the intimacy and personal dimension that the Torah-rite had in our village. Thank you! At the top you can see a certificate that was nominally received by anyone who attended this ceremony. There is a box for the name, but also for a letter that has been fixed.

Very personal – very personal! Mrs. Dreiseitl (second from left) when writing the Torah. From left K. Jurečková from Prague, from Mrs. Sidon’s right My experiences of the Torah Torah – how simple the word for uninitiated. But for us who know what this word means, it is something extraordinary. In our village, after eighty years, the Torah returned from California … It was a long journey, but thanks to Mr Gronsky and our President, Mr. Papoušek, he managed to get the Torah back. It started for me on Friday Sabbath worship and a common sitting at a gala dinner. The premises of our Municipality have already been pervaded by something strange – expectation, tension. At the end of the liturgy, our Torah was brought to the chapel for the singing and applause of all those present. On Sunday after the morning worship, the preparations for Torah correspondence began. Of all the present I felt some internal tension. I myself felt something indescribable … it was luck and joy of something unrepeatable. I have to admit that I kept thinking of all those who could not be present, but trust me, I tried to feel the special atmosphere of their souls as well. In my imagination, I saw that my grandfather, who was involved in the preparation of refreshments for so many people, touched this scroll. Perhaps they had to sleep there. It’s all your big thanks to you. You did not make it easy, but you knew how to deal with it and you managed it to one. Once again, I thank you all, and if the amazing atmosphere you have created remains in the memories of most of you present, then believe that your efforts are worth the effort. Hana Dreiseitlová Alois Wellner 1898 – 1966, Coming from seven children, grew up in a religion-based family. In Olomouc he married Anna Schubrt, and in 1926 the only daughter of Alice, my mother, was born to them. In the war years he was imprisoned and finished in Terezin. After the war he was redeemed for the reconstruction of the Jewish community in Olomouc. From my mother I know he taught both religion and Hebrew and also taught R. Daniel Mayer in the Torah Hachnasat sefer Tor in Olomouc On Sunday, October 22, at the invitation of the Chairman of the Olomouc Philosophical Orthodox Church, Mr. Petr Papoušek, attended an exceptional festival of the Torah scroll aron hakodeše in ŽOO prayer. Of course, everyone present at this unique festivities among members of the Olomouc or other Jewish communities in the Czech Republic, as well as precious guests from the USA, Israel and Switzerland, all rejoiced at the reality bordering on the miracle that the scroll of the Torah, which had been deposited since 1880 in the aron ha-codes of the Olomouc Synagogue, which was destroyed by the Nazis in 1939 and subsequently demolished, returned to its home village after a long and adventurous journey. For me, Alois Wellner, the great-grandson of the chairman of the FBI in Olomouc in 1913-18, Friedrich Fischer and his wife Bertha, born Briess. When writing these lines I still have a strange feeling. This experience will remain in my memory for a lifetime. The very moment that I, the inordinate member of the Oracle, had a letter to the Torah, was happy for me. However, behind this act was the enormous efforts of Mr Gronsky and Mr Papoušek, which I have already appointed, but also efforts at home. I have the most beautiful memories. When he lived here, I was looking forward to learning when I came to school … Later he worked in Olomouc as a cantor. He died on September 23, 1966, on the eve of Jom Kipur when he worshiped his heart when he was singing – it was a heavy heart attack. Although he was immediately assisted by two doctors present, one of them was Mr. Gronsky’s father, they were unable to revive their grandfather. He was a very good man, and I will never forget him. From the memories of Hana Dreiseitlová’s granddaughter The owner of the malted house in Friedrich Friedrich Friedrich Fischel managed the affairs of the Olomouc village from 1913 to 1918, and from 1908 to 1918 he also worked in the city council

Very personal – very personal! February 2011: I am introduced to a woman who is a granddaughter of the Jewish woman from Olomouc. We married a year and a half. And during the next four years we became the parents of four children, the next generation of descendants of the Jewish community from Olomouc. August 2015: I received an email from the synagogue, in which I got a question about the Torah scroll from Olomouc. From Olomouc?!? From the city that my wife visited and about which she so much told me? I immediately sent an email to a woman in which I wrote to her that the Torah, from which I read in the synagogue for more than twenty years, is the Torah to which our children’s grandfather and other ancestors were called. I wondered how meaningful and beautiful it would be for our children to have an aliy (invocation) to the same Torah in our own synagogue. We immediately shared this news with our cousin Olo-mouci, Mr. Roman Gronsky. I later found out that he was the first to address the Memorial Scroll Trust in the Lon-Pump on the possible return of the Torah to Olomouc. But for a long time neither of us knew he was his distant cousin, whose synagogue is holding this scroll. October 2017: I am honored to be part of an unforeseen and unexpected event of returning this scroll to his rightful home. I am honored to have added the script to this scroll … to lead the way for so many new friends … and that I can witness the birth of the brotherly relationship between the rightful owner of this scroll and the community that years adopto-vala: Congregation Peninsula Sinai. And if all this can not be characterized as “basser”, what else? Siman tov u’mazel tov! Doron Shapira, Cantor Doron Shapira’s wife, Mrs. Jocelyn, also wrote several personal lines about our Jewish community, Hachnasat Sefer Tora and her Olomouc baths: When I grew up, I always had my grandmother Lisa Karpfen very close relationship. Her grandmother worked hard, she was successful, she was also warm and liked to laugh – more than most others. But when I, or anyone else in our family, asked her about her life in Europe, she said almost nothing. It was quite obvious that in her past there was immense pain and sadness. But she decided to live every day with joy and kindness. In 2007, I traveled to Olomouc with the hope of learning more about my grandmother’s journey and about our family history. This journey was very meaningful. A few years later, I decided to make my Bat Micva as an adult. Since then I have been running a kip and talit in the synagogue. Wearing chips and waist is a source of reassurance and pride for me, combining a traditional tradition with a modern act. As a Jew and as a mother I want my children to know the story of their family and where they come from, sorrow and joy. I try to be a good example for my children, and I hope they will know the story of their grandmother Lisa, her hometown, and that it will inspire them to live a proud Jewish life. And one more thing: Our daughter Jael is named after Lise Karpfen. Her full name is Jael Aliza Shapira – Aliza in honor of Lisa Karpfen Gruner. Lisa is no longer between us – she died when she was waiting for Jael in the winter of 2014. She was 100 years old. Jocelyn Shapira has a great personal emotional meaning. It is very probable that just before this developed Torah scroll, my father celebrated his bar micva in 1936 in a magnificent olo-mouk synagogue. By casting the scroll of the holy Torah into the aron of the horseshoe in the prayer church of Olomouc, Kora-glory returned to its original dignified place: הנשויל הרטע הרזח All those who have earned it, thank me and my whole family. Rabbi Daniel Mayer This is basher! (It is bashert!) The congressman of Peninsula Sinai from the USA, Mr. Doron Shapira, sent us the following lines. Na-depsal is “This is Basher”, creating a difficult-to-translate word game, closely related to the content of his text. The word “bashert” comes from Yiddish and originally known as much fate, a higher power that determines the course of human life. But then it began to be used to designate “allied souls,” most often in the search for a life partner, when the search to find a baser means so much to find a precursor ideal partner:
Peninsula Sinai on the way to Olomouc I. As Chajjn reads, the Olomouc scroll of the Torah for decades has been used by the US Conservative Congregation Peninsula Sinai of Forster City, USA. This Jewish community willingly agreed to return the coil and, in addition, funded its repair. Finally, she sent a group of its members headed by Rabbi Corey Helfand and Cantor Doron Shapiri, who had escorted them so intimately. There was a bond of friendship and fellowship between the two Jewish communities based on the shared joy of the Torah. That’s why we want to bring this community closer to the readers. Rabbi C. Helfand has sent us some basic information about the history and life of his community: Our Congregation (Jewish Community) was founded in December 1967 and we built our synagogue in 1979. We are a conservative (masorti) community and therefore egalitarian that is, they practice the so-called egalitarian minian, which also includes women, note editors). Our community center was built in three stages. The educational part, consisting of four classrooms, a kitchen and a library, was put into operation in 1979. In the second phase, a prayer hall, a common room and an office were built. It was in 1984. In May 2000, a major rebuilding was completed, which today includes a prayer room, other classrooms and social spaces and new offices, a library and a professional kitchen. At present, our congregation is made up of 325 families, and every week we meet regularly to celebrate Shabbat (worship on Friday evening and Saturday morning). Besides, I have a mini-drink a week in the morning and a week in the evening. Rabbi Corey Helfand came to the Sinai Peninsula in August 2011. He also includes clergymen of the Congregation, Doron Shapira, who also serves as a senior community worker. She is also rabbi Rebecca Schatz (rabbi assistant and educator). Emeritus rabbi is then Marvin Goodman. LECH LECHA! Rabbi C. Helfand, after his return from the Czech Republic, spoke to Lech Lech on the sabbath of Lech Lech, in which he connected the message of this section of the Torah with reflection and also a report on the journey to Olomouc. That is why we bring you the most important of his remarkable text. The words of Lech lecha are translated as “Exit!” Rabbi Sidon chooses the other translation: “Go away!” But the meaning is still the same, it is the call of Avram to quit Heaven, the first Jew. “Rabbi David Peter says this is a three-fold exit: to leave his city, his house and ultimately his father (family), and three levels of path to each other, three basic” abandonment “or” “Without which one can not become himself. As you can see, there are many different meanings behind these words and hence we will leave them in their Hebrew text: LECH LECHA! It was a real “Lecha lecha” experience. I felt a little like Abraham, who was called to do the job, and he did not know what it was going to take. I wonder what Abraham’s head went to when B-h wanted to leave his country, his birthplace and his family. He set out for a trip whose unknown destination was unknown. Would he go on a journey if he knew what to expect? Would he be able to become the first Lord to enter the sacred relationship with the Lord? I think there is no way we can prepare for Lech Lecha for the moment. Honestly, I really did not know what to expect from this trip to Olomouc. In part, I wanted to put together all the “Lech lecha” moments that made it possible for this journey to take place. And the first moment came in January 2016 when I received an email from J. Ohrenstein from the Memorial Scroll Trust (MST) that revived the history of the two Torah scrolls in our Congregation:
Dear Sir, I hope you do not mind turning to the unusual situation that has arisen. After visiting our museum of Czech scrolls Tór by a visitor from Olomouc, Roman Gronský, I received a letter from the chairman of this village who examined the possibility of borrowing this Torah in the Olomouc village … Shortly thereafter, the President of MST received a letter from Petr Papoušek, Chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities and President of Olomouc Municipality, in which he wrote: … Now we are working on obtaining a new or usable (kosher) Torah, because we own only one and that is in an unsatisfactory condition. It would be very satisfactory for us to receive one of the scrolls from which our ancestors read in Olomouc … our community has 164 members, we hold shabba celebrations regularly, we keep the kosher worship kitchen attended by 30 – 45 participants … Unbelievable! In Olomouc there are still Jews who keep the Sabbath, kosher and read from the Torah? Abraham’s journey began because he could freely choose to leave one place to another. But the Nazis had only one way for us: the way of death without return. The realization of this trip to Olomouc meant that the Nazis eventually failed! Our journey with the Olomouc scroll thus began with the new “Lech lecha”, which should never have happened: to connect our congregation, the Olomouc village, MST, Petra Papouška and Roman Gronsky. It was as if the B-h and the Jewish people once again found one another and we could hear each other: “Lech lecha!” Continuation in the December issue of Chajejn Redactively curtailed, a translation from English by J.A.K. Web: http://www.peninsulasinai.org
The Olomouc Torah and the Days of Jewish Culture in Olomouc On Sunday, October 22, Olomouc returned the Torah scroll, which was used for the last time in church service almost 80 years ago. It was the first time one of more than 1500 Torus returned to its place of origin. The return of the Torah to Olomouc has become a historic event not only for our communities and not only for the city of Olomouc. This information was reported by both domestic and foreign media. This Torah presentation was framed by the Days of the Jewish Olomouc dedicated to the 120th anniversary of the dedication of the Olomouc Synagogue and the 150th anniversary of the birth of rabbi Berthold Oppenheim. In addition, several academics from Israel who had lectured at CJS or at other Palacky University Departments met in Olomouc these days. They were prof. Zvi Zohar, Eli Lederhendler and Yosaif Cohain. Last but not least, Mr. Ephraim Karol Sidon and his lady were present. It is no wonder, therefore, that not all and everything came to this issue. So, let us take a leniency and try to bring at least the most important ones on the following pages. THE DAYS OF JEWISH CULTURE DAYS The days of Jewish culture in Olomouc were commenced on Thursday 19th October in the Archdiocesan Museum with the opening ceremony of the Olomouc Synagogue from 1897 to 1939. The photo below is a completely filled hall where MUO Director Michal Soukup welcomes the participants. The exhibition itself has two parts. The first is the architecture of the synagogue itself and the work of architect Jakob Gartner, and the second opening ceremony of the exhibition culminated in the show of Cantor’s Songs. Prague Cantor Michael Duschinsky sang Sabbath and festive prayers. He accompanied the musical performance with a basic interpretation. Transformations of Jewish Life: Moravian Jews at the Turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries On Friday, October 20th, an international conference was organized by the UPOL Judicial Studies Center. It offered a wider view of the Jewish history of Olomouc and Moravia since the second half of the 19th century. Her individual contributions did not avoid conflicts, conflict of tradition and secular culture, or intellectual exchange between Moravia and Galicia. The theme was also focused on both commemorated anniversaries: both the initiation of the synagogue and the birth of Rabbi Oppenheim. There were contributions such as “Jewish Family History in Olomouc of the 19th Century” (Luise Hecht), “The Jewish Associations in Olomouc and the Breakthrough of their Membership at the Turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries” or “The Jewish Wedding in Premiere Olomouc / Margin of the Wedding Sermon Rabbi Abraham Neuda “(Daniel Soukup). The outcome of the conference will be a professional collection, but we will try to bring to Chaijn’s readers the most interesting information on the pages of the magazine. The photo below is dr. Marie Crhová, main conference organizer, Dieter and Luise Hecht, lecturer. On the following days, we continued another rich program of Džko, which we brought to you in the special issue of Chajina dedicated to our Torah. The members of Tomáš and David Hrbka and Daniel Soukup also actively participated in this program. One of the program’s points was a lecture by an Israeli photographer and
Olomouc’s Torah and the Days of Jewish Culture in Olomouc Letting the Letter in the Torah scroll is not just an honor, it’s a lot more: “Those who hold the pen with the helper have the honor to take part in the Torah repair and filing. He fulfills one of the commandments, which in the Jewish tradition impose on everyone the obligation to write or write the Torah. “It is no wonder, therefore, that the candidates were many. This ceremony, which lasted for over two hours, was intertwined by those who participated in it and had something to say. Part of these projections can be found on pages 4-7. Finally, chairman of the Memorial Scroll Trust from England, Jeffrey Ohrenstein, handed the Torah scroll to the chairman of the Jewish community of Olomouc, Petr Papoušek. Then, the Olomouc Torah was carried into the synagogue for a polyphonic singing in a ceremonial procession. The melody was alternating there, and the Torah was passed between the men who rode in her ceremonial carriage in a procession that had traversed the interior of the synagogue. Everyone wanted to touch at least the scroll and our prayer pulled back like no longer. The completely filled synagogue thus surrendered the honor of the Torah, who, thanks to the efforts of many, returned home. This moment of belonging was also picked up by Moshe Druin in his bold speech, when he invited the singer to sing the song Hine ma tov (see the bottom left). The Torah Shroud, which started on a 9,000-kilometer-long trip to Olomouc, was “home”, in Aron Ha-Kodeš Olomouc. Hopefully, we will often pull it out to read it. Cha-zak, chazak, venitchazek! דַחַי םַּּ םיִחָא תֶבֶשׁ םיִעָנּ הַמוּ בוֹט הַמ הֵנִּה Hine ma tov u-ma na’im ševet achim gam achad What good is the goodness of where the brethren dwell in a hurry



From this week’s J Weekly.


Sofer On-site links to my blog and the, JWeekly Story on SOS’s home page.


Taube Philanthropies established a matching grant to help us repair the Olomouc Torah Scroll.


Another article in Czech.


Someone posted the Twitter feed of the Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic.

We made the big time in United Airlines Hemispheres Magazine in the December issue. Check out page 14!


And there was this heartwarming story from Jenny and Corey’s hometown Dallas Newspaper.


Doron and Jocelyn were initially interviewed in September before the trip and it includes recollections by Peter Breiss, a pre-war resident of Olomouc who came back specially for the event from London.

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At last! Mission Accomplished!

One morning after the newly Kosher scroll was returned to the Aron Kodesh in Olomouc and I think we’re all still processing what this historic occasion meant.  At least I know I am.  I was honored to plays some small part in this joyous simcha. Most of us have scattered to the four corners of the globe from this holy gathering but Sunday, October 22 was a day I don’t think I will ever forget. (Here’s one article in the Czech Press)

It seemed like there were hundreds of people in that “Room where it Happens” all waiting their turn to have a few precious moments with the Sofer Moshe Druin. They ranged from infants, to young children to Community Members to an 87 year-old Holocaust survivor and her mother to a distinguished gentleman who remembered Rabbi Oppenheim (Z”L) the last rabbi of the Olomouc Synagogue to us visitors from California.  This was clearly a stupendous occasion and you could realize it from the moment you wanked in the room.




First person up was the Chief Rabbi of the Czech Republic, Karol Efraim Sidon, followed by other Rabbis and dignitaries from across the Czech Republic.




Then each of us got our turn. (Linda and I got a “Yud” from the word “Ashira” from the Song of the Sea (Ex: 15:2) and Rabbi Druin talked about how the Yud makes a difference in us all from differentiating between men and women and also adding a holy spark of fire.  I think we all could feel those sparks viscerally yesterday.

Lastly came Roman Gronsky’s turn.  He was given the Kavod (honor) of completing the last word in this this Torah and his was “Ga’oh Ga’ah” which has to do with many things among them pride.  It’s not just a matter of personal pride and it’s certainly not arrogance but for him (he was the one that drove this process forward over the last 2 years leading to its completion today) it exemplified the pride (and humility) felt by everyone in that room. This Torah CAME HOME.  Be Proud!  You could not help but feel the joy and honor we all felt.

This followed a wild, joyous Hakafah where we returned the Torah to the Ark.







Maybe this signifies a transition from PSC to Olomouc best? From our vestement to those used by the community of Olomouc.  It’s really home now.




I also want to recognize something that Linda and I won’t ever forget.  Lost in all the hubub was an 87 year-old Holocaust Survivor and her daughter from Australia.  The woman had spent the entire war as a dental assistant to a Jewish dentist in Tereizin.  Believe it or not, she said she actually loved the work and wanted to work in the field after the war but never realized that dream.  She had such a radiant smile on her face oit was hard not to get lost in her joy (and pride?) in that moment. We spent over an hour with her listening to her stories in a quiet corner of the shul with her daughter acting as translator. She showed us a magen david necklace she was wearing made from shrapnel of bombs and rockets sent over the border by terrorists in Gaza and turned into pieces of art.  Roses into Rockets . Hows that for affirming life over death?

Goose bumps, yet?








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A second Simchat Torah? Heck Yeah!


You should have seen it last night! Really, if you could have been there! some ways you’re just going to have to trust me on this one but today was an incredibly emotional day. Since some of it took place after Shabbat came in, all you’re going to get is my word’s-eye-view description. No photos on Shabbat, sorry! At the end of Kabalat Shabbat, last night, in a crowded prayer room crammed to the gills with about 75 people including dozens of guests from overseas (the US and UK) and dozens of members of the Olomouc Jewish Community, its leaders and its members, men, women and children, people whose grandparents are listed on the Memorial Wall just outside the prayer room (including Jocelyn and Doron’s relatives), just as we had finished singing Adon Olam (lead by Doron’s very familiar voice), we all turned around as we heard the first strains of SIMAN SIMAN TOV, MAZEL MAZEL TOV


From the back of the room, in came the Olomouc Torah. Our Torah The Memorial Scroll Trust’s Torah, and now Olomouc’s Torah, in Rabbi Corey’s hands. Hands reached out to touch it. One gentleman kissed it and there was one, maybe two laps around the room, up both aisles and around to the women’s section in the back (Olomouc’s practice is Orthodox) before the Ark was opened and the scroll was placed inside to await the final repairs on Sunday at the hands of our Sofer, Rabbi Moshe Druin. The Torah was wrapped in the familiar blue covering that many members of our community lovingly crafted years ago. This cover will be returned to PSC and new vestments from the Olomouc community will be placed on it.


Speaking of Rabbi Druin, I happened to be sitting next to him during services and just as the services were concluded, he confided to me that this was a very emotional moment for him. I suppose working on this project for the last 6-8 months had an impact? Maybe surviving Hurricane Irma with it last month had something to do with it? But I suspect it had a lot to do with the historic moment that we had just witnessed. A Torah Scroll written approximately 200 years ago in this community, a survivor of the Nazi persecutions that nearly wiped out this community and those of hundreds of Jewish communities in the area. A scroll that survived the Czech Communist regime. A scroll that sat in a place of honor in our Aron Kodesh for 47 years. (A scroll that I had the honor to read from before we determined that it was ritually unfit and needed significant repairs). A scroll that had been carried 9000 kilometers in planes, trains and automobiles over the past 3 days, half-way around the world (I know, I pitched in) and had now been returned to its ancestral home, to stay. Take that in for a second… Realize that



Location Komenského 7, Olomouc, Czech Republic (the Jewish Community Center of Olomouc)
Latitude 49.60 Longitude 17.26
KM to Olomouc 0! Mission Accomplished!

But wait, there’s more!

Friday morning at the Kehilah at Rosh Hodesh “Mar Cheshvan” morning Minyan our own Cantor Doron had the honor of being asked to be the Shaliach Tzibbur. Pretty Cool huh? That’s the same community where Jocelyn’s ancestors made their lives and where their children and grandchildren now thrive. If you come on the Congregational Trip this Spring to Olomouc, you’ll be (to quote Hamilton, or Aaron Burr, really) “In the room where it happens”

Doron doing Hallel in Olomouc


Here’s a little bit from the Live Stream I recorded on Friday morning. Watch as much or as little as you want but see if you agree that there was something special hearing the unique PSC Ruach given voice by members of our congregation in a Jewish community 9000 Kilometers from our own. Got goose bumps yet? I certainly did, and I don’t think I am violating any confidences if I say that Ron Mester said exactly the same thing at dinner on Friday night.


But wait, there’s STILL more!


On Friday afternoon before Shabbat, some of us rented a bus and took a trip about 40 miles outside of Olomouc to a small town called Lostice, a town of about 3,000 people, where town historian and director of the Respect and Tolerance program in Lostice, Ludek Stipl, met us at the former Lostice synagogue and told us about his work teaching tolerance and respect to youth from around the community. The building itself is not a synagogue at present but has many of the trappings of a synagogue. The building’s occupants were deported to Terezín in 1942 as the stolpersteins outside indicate. There’s no Jewish community left to speak of in the area but Ludek has turned this building into a demonstration site and an educational institution to teach the youth in the area to love and respect everyone, even those different from him. There is a small cemetery outside of Lostice established in the 17th century with hundreds of tombstones of members of the community. We walked around on a foggy “Washington Irving-esque” afternoon and took in the sights.


As if I needed anything more. I had the unique honor of layning (Reading Torah) this morning from from Parshat Noach, taking the yad from the Chief Rabbi of the Czech Republic, Karol Sidon  (who passed it to me after reading the preceding three aliyot from the Torah in that same “room where it happens.”


Just after Shabbat Services ended And before we were headed to a festive kiddush lunch with the community (pretty good, even by PSC standards), a gentleman grasped my hand and wished me Good Shabbes and a Yasher Koach on my reading and told me he was old enough to remember the scroll as a child growing up in the Olomouc Synagogue before the Nazis destroyed it….80+ years old and now coming full circle….Wow!

And now for some reason I’m sitting in my hotel room waking up from my Shabbat Nap, listening to the Satuday afternon Church Bells pealing through Olomouc from the nearby churches in town when who should be looking down on me but a stone sculpture of the late Pope JP2 from the walls of the ecclesiastical college next door. How’s that for random? I am told he spent significant time in Olomouc and was responsible for opening up a hugely important Olomouc library filled with rare books and manuscripts.


OK now off to Seudah Shlishit.  What could be in store for me now? 🙂 Asked and answered!  We ran into the Israli Ambassador to the Czech Republic at the Exhibition space where they were talking about the history or the Olomouc community and the Beit Knesset that was burned by the Nazis in 1939

But wait, there’s still STILL more. 

Enjoy a clip from Havdalah and a brief tour of the Olomouc synagogue (You don’t want to miss this.  It’s great!!)

and also a Making plans for Sunday’s final completion of the repairs and a nighttime walk back to the Hotel through the streets of Olomouc

I’m hungry…It’s time for dinner now! Hope you’re liking this! 🙂







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