A number of thriving Jewish communities lived throughout Bohemia and Moravia for more than a millennia. Branching out from a central hub in Prague, at least 350 synagogues have been known to exist. In 1939, the Nazi regime invaded and by the end of their occupation more than sixty congregations had been destroyed with another 300 left abandoned. The subsequent Communist era saw another eighty temples ruined and ransacked.
In 1942, members of Prague’s Jewish community were able to securely deliver more than 100,000 Jewish artifacts, including 1,800 Torah scrolls to the Central Jewish Museum of Prague which was later known re-founded as the Jewish Museum of Prague. The museum and its contents became property of the communist Czechoslovak Government after the war.
In 1963, 1,564 Scrolls of the Law were purchased and taken to Westminster Synagogue by Jews living in London for further safekeeping and the eventual dispersal to Jewish communities around the world. The scrolls today are each a memorial to the Jewish tragedy and a beacon of hope for future generations.
Kol Ami proudly holds the Sefer Torah #401, one of the 1,564 Czech Memorial Sifre Torah. This scroll orginated from Polna and was written in the 19th century.
The Memorial Scrolls Trust, a U.K. non-profit organization, has recently begun to reach out to synagogues and other institutions who received the Czech Scrolls to gather and record up to date information about them. They plan to continue to build their website, creating “a repository of all knowledge concerning the 1564 scrolls.” More information about the Memorial Scrolls Trust is available on their website.