From the desk of Rabbi Howald

On Sunday, April 7th, Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan (not Staten Island!) will host another gathering of Holocaust Torah scrolls to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Memorial Scrolls Trust (“MST” or the “Trust”), the Trust responsible for distributing these Torah scrolls to synagogues all over the world. This gathering will include scrolls from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and a few others neighboring states. The last time the Trust sponsored such an event was in 2019. At that time, seventy-five scrolls were presented to eight hundred guests who had a chance to see them displayed and read a little about their history. The guests also had a chance to hear representatives talk about the Trust and its ongoing work to preserve and distribute these precious objects to congregations. The Trust, in return, only asks the hosting congregations to honor them and give them a prominent place in the life of their community.

I have shared the story of the Trust and its remarkable work before but its worth remembering that our Holocaust Scroll is one of 1,564 Torah scrolls that were collected by the Jewish community of Prague during the Nazi occupation of what was then known as Czechoslovakia. This was their act of resistance to Nazi terror, done in the hope that one day they could return these Torah Scrolls to the Jewish community. These scrolls are among the few remaining objects that testify to the richness of Jewish religious life in central Europe before World War II.  The Nazis murdered more than 85% of the Jews living in the Czech lands in the Holocaust and, when the war ended, almost all the Jews who had helped gather and preserve these scrolls had perished in the camps or left Prague. The scrolls consequently languished in a warehouse until 1963, when Ralph Yablons, a lawyer living in London, agreed to fund their purchase and removal to Westminster Synagogue in London. The Memorial Scrolls Trust was consequently formed to preserve and loan these scrolls to synagogues worldwide on the stipulation they never be sold or donated.

Many synagogues in our area, including Temple Israel, have a Torah scroll on loan from the MST. Most of these scrolls are, like ours, delicate and precious and only used on special occasions. This is an opportunity to see a large number of them at one time. As of the time of writing of this article, seventy congregations, including Temple Israel, have registered to attend with their scrolls. The organizers anticipate even more at the gathering on April 7th. In addition to a parade of scrolls, music and other festivities, the chair of the MST, Jeffrey Ohrenstein, will be present to offer his comments along with another trustee, Lois Roman, who collaborates closely with congregations who have a Torah Scroll on loan. The program will be appropriate for all ages, and I encourage you to attend!

The doors will open for the public at 2:30 and the program will begin at 3 pm. Temple Emanu-El is located at 1 E. 65th street (at 5thAvenue) in Manhattan. The event is free but, if you are interested in attending, you must register at : We would appreciate knowing if you are planning to attend this historic event. Please email me at or Jerry Gross at We look forward to seeing you there!

Rabbi Michael Howald