By JEN CARDINES
The Gishrei Shalom Jewish Congregation (GSJC) obtained a Holocaust Torah in May 2012, and a dedication ceremony is set to take place on Sunday, Sept. 18, at 3 p.m., in the First Congregational Church meeting hall at 37 Main Street, across from the town green.
Founded in 1984, the GSJC is a small but very active Jewish congregation, with an average of 40 members. “Due to the generosity of the FCC, this has been our home for some 20 years,” said Sue Kleinman, Torah Restoration Committee Chair. “We worship monthly for Shabbat in the small chapel, but we use the large Meeting House sanctuary for High Holidays and special events.”
The Torah, or saved scroll, was recovered after World War II from a destroyed community in Europe. The Gishrei Temple acquired the Torah from the Memorial Scrolls Trust (the repository for saved scrolls) at the Westminster Synagogue in London, England.
Kleinman said that the project is “near and dear to our hearts,” because families in the congregation have relatives that suffered through the Holocaust. “It is verification that not only did the scroll survive, but so did we,” she said.
As guardians of the Torah, the people of Gishrei Temple are focusing their efforts on two corresponding projects: first, to a compiled list of those who were deported from m Caslav- Golcuv-Jenikov in the Czech Republic where the scroll is from, and second, the restoration of the Torah.
The Torah was examined by a sofer (scribe), who are the only people that can repair or write on a scroll. The GSJC was told that their Torah most likely dates back to the early 17th century, giving its history more depth than they anticipated.
The GSJC Holocaust Torah Restoration Project Facebook page states, “It is a compilation of scrolls from 3 eras: probably repaired after being damaged during pogroms in the late 1800s and again after World War II and is in need of significant repairs now.”
The Torah is not only a religious document, but a historical one too.
After many trips throughout the East Coast, the sacred scroll is finished with its repairs and ready to be used by the Jewish community. The dedication ceremony will feature other rescued Torahs from different congregations, and proclamations from the Governor and the President.
Dr. Melissa Mentzer, professor of Jewish-American Literature at Central Connecticut State University, said that this local project is part of an even bigger movement.
“I congratulate the Gishrei Shalom congregation on becoming shomrim of a Holocaust Torah,” said Mentzer. “They are helping the world to follow Elie Wiesel’s admonition that we not be indifferent or forgetful of those who suffered in the moral catastrophe of genocide.”
The GSJC needed to raise $20,000 to restore the scroll because they do not want to keep it locked in a display case, but rather use it and read from it.
The event is open to the public, politicians, and clergy to celebrate this historical document in the community.