As many of you know, I just returned from a family trip to England. During our visit, we had the opportunity to tour the Czech Memorial Scrolls Museum at Westminster Synagogue in London. This museum is a tribute to the 1,564 scrolls that were left without Jewish communities after the horrors of the Holocaust. In 1964, these scrolls were rescued and brought to Westminster Synagogue where they were lovingly taken care of, restored and kept safe. In the mid-1980’s, thanks to the Spanier family, longtime Ramat Shalom congregants, we adopted one of these scrolls and it’s been at the heart of our community ever since.
While I would have loved to have brought our Holocaust scroll with me as I visited the museum, this was just not possible. So, I decided to bring the scroll’s wimple – the belt that holds the Torah together when it’s not being read. I figured the wimple isn’t only easy to pack and bring overseas, it’s the ritual object that’s closest to our Holocaust scroll. It holds it together and embraces it on a daily basis – so it was the perfect thing to bring with me in place of the scroll herself. Below, you can see the wimple.
If you have’t had a chance to watch our tour of the museum, you can do so here. During the tour, we were shown a display containing the actual wimples that came with the Torahs that arrived at Westminster Synagogue in 1964. They were absolutely beautiful. I took our much more modest wimple out while viewing this display. While it doesn’t compare to the wimples on display in the museum, I felt so grateful to be able to hold this simple piece of fabric that surrounds our own Holocaust Torah as I stood in the synagogue that kept it safe after WWII.
Just yesterday, two of our three B’not Mitzvah (Bat Mitzvah girls) who we will celebrate tonight and tomorrow had the opportunity to read from our Holocaust scroll as they prepared for this weekend’s celebration. When we unwrapped the Torah yesterday, I pointed out the temporary wimple that was holding the scroll together. When they were done reading, I asked them, along with their parents, to wrap the Torah in the wimple that had just returned from its trip to London. Below, you can see the B’not Mitzvah and their parents (the Lansman family – we also celebrate the Solomon family this Shabbat – Mazal Tov to both families!) with the scroll and the wimple holding it together.
One of Westminster Synagogue’s rabbis, Rabbi Thomas Salamon, was gracious enough to lead our private tour of the Czech Memorial Scrolls Museum. At the end of the tour, he asked us that we do everything possible to keep the story of the 1,564 scrolls alive and well. As I watched the Lansman girls read and then, with mom and dad’s help, wrap our precious scroll, I was so proud to be part of a community that not only tells the story of the Czech scrolls, but actually honors and respects one of these incredible scrolls by incorporating her into our services and synagogue life on a regular basis.
The wimple is home, wrapped around our Holocaust Torah which is securely resting in our ark. If ritual objects could speak, I imagine the wimple would have much to share with the scroll about her journey to Westminster Synagogue. Tomorrow morning, our Holocaust scroll will be carried around our community and read and the story of the Czech Torah scrolls will continue to be told.