The Old New Synagogue in Prague has acquired two new Torah scrolls, the first such acquisition since the 1930s. The scrolls, containing the entire text of the Five Books of Moses, were hand-written in Israel and funded by donations to the Prague Jewish community. The ceremony of bringing the Torahs into the synagogue on Sunday was attended by hundreds of members of the Jewish community.
The new Torah scrolls, hidden under a velvet canopy, were carried into the Old New Synagogue by members of the Jewish community in Prague. Despite rain, hundreds of people gathered outside the synagogue to dance and sing and celebrate the event. Among them were Czech and foreign rabbis, representatives of the community as well as the newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Prague, Daniel Meron.
According to Rabbi Herschel Gluck from England, who has been active in the Czech Jewish community since the 1990s, it was a very important moment for the community:
“It shows a window to the future: a living, thriving and vibrant community and writing its own Sifrit Torah and celebrating a new phase in the glorious history of the Jewish Community in Prague. It shows a community that is not only alive, but looking to a new bright future. There are a lot of new young families, the Jewish school in Prague bursting at its seams, so it’s a very positive period for the Jewish community in Prague.”
The Torah, a central reference of Judaism, is kept in the holy arch in the eastern wall of the synagogue. It is brought out three times a week for reading in front of the community. According to the Czech Chief Rabbi Karol Sidon, there were hundreds or even thousands of Torah scrolls in the country before the Second World War, but most of them were sold off by the Communist regime.
The scrolls used during services in the Old New Synagogue have been used since the 1930s and have started to show signs of wear and tear.
The new Torah scrolls were handwritten in Israel, with the last thirty letters left out to be symbolically completed by rabbis and sponsors from the community with the help of a professional scribe.
“The Sifrit Torah were written by a young sofer who is a very capable scribe in the land of Israel. It usually takes about a year to write a Sefer Torah and because there were two of them, it took about two years.”
And I understand the final letters were scripted in Prague by members of the Jewish community.
“That is customary that the final letters are scripted by the people for whom the Torah has been written. So each person had the honour and the privilege of writing one of the final letters.”
According to Jewish tradition, the Old New Synagogue now has three Torah scrolls: the historical Torah and the two new scrolls, funded by donations to the Jewish community.