Martins Run Senior Living Community in Media is rededicating a historic Torah scroll that was written in what is now the Czech Republic and was used by a Jewish community that was decimated in the Holocaust.
Jirik Schreiber, an 86-year-old man from Lipnik, Czech Republic, was slated to take part in the ceremony via Skype on April 19 to coincide with Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. He was the last person to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah using this Torah before most of the town's residents were deported to concentration camps in 1942.
The Torah scroll was one of 1,500 that a London-based group, known as the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust, rescued from synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia during World War II. Many of the scrolls, including this one, are on permanent loan to congregations throughout the world.
The scroll has been in the possession of Martins Run, located in Delaware County, for about 30 years, according to Linda Sterthous, CEO of the facility.
Because of age and damage, a year ago, the scroll was sent to a scribe for repairs. The scroll was written in 1880 in a script called Beit Yosef-Marharal, a combination of Ashkenazi and Sephardi style of writing that few scribes know how to replicate today. But Martins Run was able to find a scribe to repair the lettering.
In the last few years, Rabbi Meryl Crean, a chaplain at the facility, has delved into the scroll's past.
She learned that the Torah came from a Lipnik synagogue built in 1520. Crean found a 2002 article in Czech, and was able to glean enough from it to eventually get in contact with Schreiber, who lost 32 relatives in the Holocaust.
"I am very happy that the original Torah from which I read when I was 13 years old is in your hands," Schreiber said, according to a a Martins Run news release. "It is my pleasure that the Torah has survived and now 'lives' because of you."
The program will include a short video about the history of Lipnik and its Jewish community made by a high school teacher there who focuses on Holocaust education.
A student at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy will also read from the Torah scroll.
Schreiber has spoken to students at the Lipnik high school about his experiences surviving three concentration camps and a death march alongside his father. He is not, however, expected to address the Martins Run gathering, in part because he's not confident about his English, said Crean.
Right now, the rabbi is most concerned that the video hookup runs smoothly. "I'm hoping that the technology Gods will be smiling on us that day."