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Jul 25, 2017 4:19 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Historic Torah Scroll To Make A Stop At Chabad Of The Hamptons In East Hampton

Jul 25, 2017 4:19 PM

Kristallnacht—“the night of broken glass”—was November 9, 1938, when nearly endless shards littered streets throughout Germany, the broken windows of synagogues, homes and Jewish-owned businesses destroyed by rioters and Nazi Party officials. On that night, more than 1,400 synagogues were burned and 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed, and an untold number of citizens were murdered.

In the midst of the violence and destruction targeting Jewish German citizens, a treasured piece of Jewish culture was rescued, saved from being another piece of ash in the fires that burned that night—and, nearly 80 years later, people will be able to see that surviving piece of history in East Hampton.

Chabad of the Hamptons, located on Woods Lane, will host the Kristallnacht Torah, a Torah scroll rescued from Germany that night. According to Musia Baumgarten, program coordinator for the Chabad, the Torah scroll will be read for the Chabad’s Sabbath service on Saturday, August 5, and will be available for attendees to read and touch for themselves.

A Torah scroll holds great religious importance in the Jewish faith, as it contains the Five Books of Moses, which are the transcriptions of the commandments that God spoke to Moses and that Moses gave to the Jewish people.

Ms. Baumgarten said that a Torah scroll stands as the history of Jewish life and was so reviled by anti-Jewish Germans that, on the night of Kristallnacht, the German rioters forced Jewish citizens to destroy their own Torah scrolls or be killed. She also said that some Jewish people were forced by Germans to have their Torah scrolls wrapped around their bodies—and then were set on fire.

“The severity of it was so great because of the sanctity of a Torah scroll,” she said.

Ms. Baumgarten said that the scroll was recovered by a 14-year-old boy named Isaac Schwartz, who braved a pile of burning items in Hamburg to try to recover anything that he could, including the scroll, and then buried it with other possessions in the ground to protect it.

After World War II had ended, Isaac’s family recovered the scroll in Hamburg, but it could not be used again due to the damage it had suffered from the fire and its time in the ground.

“A Torah scroll, in order to be used and be deemed kosher, all the letters need to be intact and the parchment needs to be intact,” Ms. Baumgarten explained. “Obviously, after the fire and being underground for so long, it was not. The letters can’t be cracked and the parchment can’t be ripped.”

According to Menachem Klein, project manager at the Jewish Learning Institute in Brooklyn, Leonard Wien, a philanthropist, approached the institute two and a half years ago with some interesting news: Mr. Wien had purchased the Kristallnacht Torah from the Schwartz family and wanted to donate it to the institute in the hopes that it could be refurbished and preserved.

“Every letter in the scroll had to be perfect—even the tiniest crack in the lettering makes it pointless,” Mr. Klein said on Monday before going on to explain the process of restoration. “The letters were written over and mounted on a new atzei chaims, which are wooden rollers the scrolls are on.”

Mr. Klein said that it took six months for the institute to fully restore the scroll. Once it was finished, the institute began transporting it around the world to different synagogues and Chabads for worshipers to read from and inspect during holy services.

The treasured scroll is transported by the institute with great care and kept in temperature-controlled rooms to ensure there is no further cracking of the letters or damage to the parchment. The scroll is also wrapped in a blue cloth known as a mantel that bears a special inscription: “Is this one not a brand plucked from fire? With fire you were destroyed, and with fire you will be rebuilt.”

“The scroll is a representation of the Jewish community as a whole,” Mr. Klein said. “We celebrate Jewish life and learning by reading this scroll. We want to make it a full celebration.”

“Torah is something that unites all Jews,” Ms. Baumgarten said. “The Torah is the same for every single Jew no matter the level of observance or affiliation. The Torah is the Torah for everyone. When you have a Torah that was rescued from the Holocaust, which was the lowest point in Jewish history, and now it’s back in circulation and we’re still learning and reading from it, not only does it give a message of ‘We’re still here,’ but the unity that this Torah scroll has created is even stronger than that of the Torah scroll we have here.

“It touches people,” she continued, “because this is something that was rescued literally from the ashes of the Holocaust.”

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If it wasn't for the ancient Hebrew Patriarchs, and their current day Judeo-Christian offspring, their would be no viable civilization today. IMO.
By pw herman (724), southampton on Jul 26, 17 10:06 AM
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