Things don’t just disappear, I thought to myself, when I learned in 2010 that the Torah my grandmother carried out of war-ravaged Poland wasn’t in the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem, where it was supposed to be. I’m a person who misplaces things frequently, and so I have to tell myself this often. It is this law of the natural world — the impossibility of disappearance — that keeps me looking for the things, especially the important things, that are lost.
The 117-year-old Torah, my family’s most treasured possession, was commissioned by my great-great-grandmother. Four generations of my family have played a role in this Torah’s creation and safekeeping. I am a member of the fifth generation, and it is now my turn to take care of the Torah. My cousin Dalia and I expected that our sons would read from it for their bar mitzvahs, just as my brother and cousin did when they were 13.
But now the Torah has gone missing, and its misplacement — I use this word because I don’t want to call it “lost” — is a cruel severing of the tie my family had with this identity-forming piece of our past. To say that I am angry doesn’t really capture the rage, or my family’s sense of loss.
My grandmother, Rachel Sharupsky Kane, died in June 2010 at age 99. My mother, Sarah Schultz, and her twin sister, Esther Meyers, accompanied their mother’s body on the long flight to Israel from Los Angeles.
Safta had made just two requests in her will: As an observant Orthodox Jew and a life-long Zionist, she wished to be buried in Israel. The second dictate was that the ownership of the family Torah scroll would be passed along to her daughters, and then eventually to her grandchildren.
Safta was buried next to my grandfather, Chaim Kane, in Har HaMenuchot, the largest cemetery in Jerusalem. The following morning, the first order of business for my mother and my aunt was to check on the Torah. They went to the Great Synagogue to inform the authorities that their mother, the original donor of the Torah, had just passed away, and to clarify that now the Torah and its safekeeping were to be her daughters’ responsibility.
My mother and my aunt had no intention of moving the Torah elsewhere; after all, they felt it was in good hands. My grandmother deposited the Torah there in the early 1980s, soon after making aliyah from Los Angeles with my grandfather. She entrusted the Torah to the clergy of what was then called Hechal Shlomo, a building on King George Street that housed both a small synagogue and the central office of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. At the time, the directors were in the midst of collaborating with a British philanthropist to erect a much larger place of worship, the Great Synagogue, right next door. My grandmother felt there was no better safe haven and place of honor for her precious possession.