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
THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE!
WHAT A MOMENT!
|Location||Komenského 7, Olomouc, Czech Republic (the Jewish Community Center of Olomouc)|
|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”
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!!)
I’m hungry…It’s time for dinner now! Hope you’re liking this! 🙂