This is Sefer Torah 1336, the Ivanovice Scroll
Having arrived in Ottawa on permanent loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust in Westminster, England, Sefer Torah 1336 was dedicated in 1998 and installed in the Soloway Jewish Community Centre’s Greenberg Families Library in April 2001. Where it has been ever since.
Sefer Torah 1336 comes from the town of Ivanovice, now part of the Czech Republic. Ivanovice is located approximately 7km from the district town of Vyskov. Until 1918, Ivanovice and the region were part of the Austrian Empire. Between the two World Wars, and during the postwar communist era, it was part of the Republic of Czechoslovakia.
History of the Jews in Ivanovice
It is unclear precisely when Jews first settled in Ivanovice, however, tombstones dating from the 17th century indicate that by that point there were a significant number of Jews living there. By 1727, a synagogue had been built. By the mid-20th century the majority of the Jews in the community spoke German.
In 1848, Jews throughout the Austrian Empire were emancipated and received full civil rights. Restrictions on movement were also removed, which led to a migration of Jews to larger towns and cities in search of more economic and educational opportunities. This resulted in a population decline of the Jewish community of Ivanovice. In 1857, the Ivanovice Jewish community’s population peaked at 483, which was approximately 20% of the town’s total population. However, by 1922, this population had decreased to only 80 members. By 1930, the Jewish population had dropped to just 64.
The Jews of Ivanovice and The Holocaust
When the 1938 Munich Agreement was enacted the Republic of Czechoslovakia was dissolved and in March 1939, the region of Bohemia and Moravia became a protectorate of Nazi Germany. This ushered in a period of discrimination and violence against the Jews of the area.
While we do not know for sure, it is most likely that the Jews of Ivanovice were deported to the Terezin (Theresienstadt) Ghetto along with the Jews of Brno around the end of 1941. From there, they would have been sent to a number of concentration and death camps. Jewish life was not renewed in Ivanovice after the war.
The Looted Torahs
During the Second World War the Nazis looted many items, including Torah from damaged Synagogues and stored them near Prague. After the war some 1,100 were recovered. Those that could be repaired were, but those that were not sparked a debate about what to do with them. It was determined that these Torahs would be used for educational purposes, displayed in Jewish Centers, museums, archives, schools, etc. around the world as a memorial and reminder of the Holocaust.
While we are unsure of the original provenance of Sefer Torah 1336, we believe it could have come from this Synagogue. This synagogue was active from the early 19th century until the outbreak of the Second World War. The Synagogue was reconstructed in 1951 but has since been converted into a Czechoslovak Hussite Church.
As written by Rabbi Kassel Abelson:
“A notice was sent to synagogues, museums, colleges and similar institutions throughout the world offering such a scroll on condition that they be kept on perpetual display as a reminder of the Holocaust. Over four hundred synagogues, museums, colleges, etc., have received such Torahs and keep them on display as a reminder of the Holocaust.”
For information on other Memorial Torah Scrolls please visit www.memorialscrolltrust.org