A Survivor’s Lost Torah Scroll

From War-Ravaged Poland to Disappearance in Jerusalem

Generations: The author, her grandparents and brother pose with the Torah at her brother’s bar mitzvah in 1983, before the scroll disappeared.
Courtesy of Mimi Schultz
Generations: The author, her grandparents and brother pose with the Torah at her brother’s bar mitzvah in 1983, before the scroll disappeared.

By Mimi Schultz

Published January 12, 2014, issue of January 17, 2014.
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However, we thought we might finally see some progress when my aunt forwarded to the Great Synagogue the original contract, made with Hechal Shlomo, from the early 1980s that described the terms of the loan of the Torah. It also contained a list of specific identifying features: locations of staining and parchment shrinkage. Rachel had the Torah’s weight documented at the time the contract was made. Converted from kilograms, it weighed 18.85 pounds. Translated from Hebrew, the contract reads, “The Synagogue commits to keep the Torah in the holy ark of the Synagogue and take care of the Torah carefully and devotedly, taking this into consideration especially because of its age and special value to Mrs. Kane and her family.” It’s clear from the wording: my grandmother did not want her Torah getting confused with any other.

We also learned in October that a new director general, Zev Lanton, had taken the helm at the Great Synagogue. We were cautiously optimistic. With the details provided by the contract, and a new leader, maybe the Torah would be located.

My mother and father flew to Israel in December 2013 to meet with the clergy of the Great Synagogue face to face. Three and a half years had gone by, and all that had been provided to my family — the only fruits of the Great Synagogue’s search — was one shaky iPhone video of a Torah that clearly was not ours.

A few days before their meeting, the Forward called the Great Synagogue to ask about the Torah. Jaffe told the Forward that the Torah was originally entrusted to Hechal Shlomo, which is a different legal entity from the Great Synagogue. Yet Jaffe said he was committed to helping us in our search. In fact, he was optimistic: “We believe we have found it,” he said.

That would have been nice.


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