Our Torah Scroll
About our Torah Scroll
Congregation Kehillah was chosen to become the guardians of a Torah scroll recently rescued from the Holocaust (the rescue work is ongoing, even today!). Each time Rabbi Youlus, a father of eleven and Torah scribe who donates his time, becomes aware of the existence of a Torah scroll, his organization sets out to rescue it – often from a basement somewhere in eastern Europe – and restore it when possible in order to give it new life in a community such as ours.
I’d like to share with you some of what I know about this particular Torah scroll and the community which chanted from it, studied it, cherished it, guarded it – whose babies were named with it open, their wimples (swaddling from the bris) wrapped around it as its binding, whose young people became Bar Mitzvah in front of it, whose festivals were celebrated with this Torah at its center. It has been an extremely painful experience to read about this community, the fate of the individuals who were its leaders, and the inhumanity that decimated the lives of the individuals who lived there at the very early stages of the occupation of Poland.
Siedlace was established as a town in the mid 1400’s and was the capital of a region known for its agriculture. The Jewish community of Siedlce (eastern Poland) is no more. At the eve of World War II, it is estimated that 50% of the town’s population was Jewish. At the end of November 1939, Nazi soldiers entered the synagogue and the Beit Hamidrash (House of Study) and threw out the Torah scrolls. In a frenzy of hatred they ripped them apart and trampled on them. During the night of December 24-25, 1939, the Nazis set fire to the synagogue; homeless Jewish refugees who were inside died in that fire. About 10,000 were deported to Treblinka and died there. Those who remained in Siedlce after the round-ups of its adult males began were concentrated in a small ghetto area which was destroyed on August 27, 1942. It is very possible that this Torah scroll was somehow guarded by a group of Chasidim, followers of the Tzaddik of Radzyn who, by all reports, distinguished themselves in the ghetto by helping one another and assisting their fellow Jews in the observance of the High Holy Days, and by collecting holy books. The Chasidim formed an “island amongst a sea of inhuman behavior”.
Here with Kehillah, this Torah scroll, a survivor in its own right, has been given new life. The Siedlce Torah was welcomed to Congregation Kehillah in a most moving ceremony on Erev Rosh Hashanah 5769/2008, the first public reading of this Torah scroll in sixty-nine years.
The cost of rescuing and repairing the scroll is estimated to be very high. The costs of maintaining this precious legacy continue and your donations are most appreciated and welcome. Congregation Kehillah is a duly incorporated 501c3 under IRS law….your contributions are tax deductible.