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Czech Memorial Scroll

The Jewish Museum in Prague dates from 1906 and the scrolls part of the 200,000 items from the Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia that were collected there. It was believed in previous times that the Nazis had the idea of creating a Museum of an extinct race, but that is now considered a myth. In short, the Nazis wanted the valuable items to take for themselves and the Jews hoped that stored together, more would survive the war and would be there on their return – little did they know!

After the war, more than 1500 Torah scrolls remained in Czechoslovakia for more than 20 years. Then Rabbi Yablon, a lawyer and philanthropist in London, paid $30,000 to bring them to Britain to evaluate whether they could be used, repaired or deemed unrepairable. In 1968 the charity the Memorial Scrolls Trust was created to loan out the scrolls on a permanent basis to small synagogues, Jewish senior homes and youth groups. You can learn more about the Memorial Scrolls Trust by visiting their website at

Enter Shir Ha-Ma'alot, then known as Harbor Reform Temple, founded in 1968. As a new congregation, it applied for and received one of these Torah scrolls on a permanent loan. It's the same Sefer Torah that we read from every Shabbat.

The Litomysl synagogue was dormant for years, then used as a storage facility then destroyed. Now an apartment building stands on the site, but a plaque commemorates the synagogue and the Jewish presence in the town.

Fifteen SHM congregants accompanied Rabbi Richard Steinberg and Cantor Arie Shikler to the village to revisit the site of the synagogue where the Sefer Torah had been, as part of a trip to experience places in Eastern Europe where Judaism flourished before World War II.

The congregation took color copies of the Torah portion and read it on the site as if it had been 50 years ago. Rabbi Steinberg commented in an article that, "Sitting there, people were crying. The idea of being where that Torah scroll was once read was incredible." He also added, "Hitler doesn't get a posthumous victory, because we read from that Torah scroll every Shabbat. Judaism is here."

Just Another Bar Mitzvah? Absolutely Not!

Corona del Mar residents Aviva and Fredric Forster stopped by the Memorial Scrolls Trust Museum for a visit during their 4 days in London. The MST is often honored by visits from North American tourists whose hometown synagogues are guardians of a Czech Scroll. This visit, however, was particularly special.

Fred explained that his father was from Ostrava, and was barmitzvahed with a scroll that is probably one of the 15 scrolls from Ostrava in the MST collection. "A visit to the museum was always part of the plan," he said. What he had not foreseen was that he would later read from a Czech scroll as part of his own Bar Mitzvah celebration.

"My parents were secular Jews,” said Fred, “so I was kind of on the outside, looking in." He explained that Aviva had grown up in a Conservative family, and had even been Bat Mitzvah. She had provided the practical Jewish education for their children, and he was proud to have four Jewish grandchildren. However, upon hearing recently that there was now a date for the first Bat Mitzvah of the next generation, he decided that the time had come for him to come in, and to demonstrate to the grandchildren his belief in Jewish continuity. So Fred studied, and prepared, and last Shabbat, surrounded by loved ones, he read Parshat Kedoshim at Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot in Irvine, CA. And the scroll from which he read was MST #349 from Litomysl.

The Stained Glass Windows

Original Designs and Creations by Lynda Wisecup with assistance from craftspersons from within Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot

Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot is unique in having had the only known stained glass studio where congregants built a mural of windows. Stained glass artist Lynda Wisecup conceived the project and designed the windows.

In March of 1996 the first of seven windows—Shabbat—was installed in our synagogue. The seventh and final window—Life Cycles II—was installed in April 2010. Each window is over five feet square and contains thousands of individually cut and fit pieces of glass.

The first three windows share a common thread of the rainbow, shape of light, and the wimple. The wimple is the primary element that takes us through the life cycles.

Mon, October 2 2023 17 Tishrei 5784