I recently received
My Town Kolin, a newly published English translation of the story of Kolin, Czechoslovakia. There are many moving and incredible aspects of this book – but one that sticks out to me is the list of close to 40 Torah scrolls from Kolin synagogues that were stolen by the Nazis and now safely at home in synagogues across the world. Right in the middle of the list is Ramat Shalom. As so many of you know, we are so blessed with our 300-plus year old Holocaust Torah scroll from Kolin. To see our community’s name in print, linked to the story of Kolin and its Jewish community is so powerful.
A chilling aspect of My Town Kolin is reading the stories and seeing the photographs of Kolin. The book gives us names and photographs of her residents, Jews who most certainly came in contact with our Torah scroll – Jews whose lives were destroyed by the Holocaust. The book also shares poetry and other writings of people from Kolin, including this poem from writer Camill Hoffman who was born in Kolin on October 31, 1878 and perished in Auschwitz in 1944:
How strangely, from the depths to afar they chime,
As if a dream of fairy tales in them slept,
The old bells in the hometown of mine!
Many a man in wonder shook his head.
In the rotten belfry suddenly
The dark gold sounds…and in the evening,
Later, through the quiet valley,
Grim song carries on fluttering.
When abroad, at midnight
A pain, suddenly interrupts my dream,
I can hear the chime in the distance, faint…
As from a town, sunk in depths and quaint,
At sea, a swimmer hears the bells’ flight.
And nobody knows how it saddens him.
After reading Mr. Hoffman’s words, every time I see our Holocaust scroll, I hear the bells. And, as I do, I feel the sadness, the pain and the loss. But, at the same time, I see the faces of our b’nai mitzvah students who carry our Holocaust scroll through the congregation during their service. As I do, I can’t help but imagine that Mr. Hoffman (whose picture is in the book) would smile as he watched one of his Torah scrolls being held by the next generation of Jews. And, I believe, that with the help of our b’nai mitzvah, the sound of the bells is evolving into a sound of hope.
This Sunday, we mark Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Day. We will be having a special community-wide service Sunday morning followed by a presentation by our member, Hannah Temel, who is a survivor. Tonight, we will talk more about Kolin and My Town Kolin. Please join us.
Shabbat Shalom and may the memory of all of those we were lost in the Shoah be the blessing of our future.