A Holocaust-era Torah scroll saved by a 14-year-old boy will be on display this week at a Colorado Springs synagogue to commemorate the upcoming 80th anniversary of attacks that preceded Nazi Germany’s killing of 6 million Jews during World War II.
In what became known as “Kristallnacht” – the Night of Broken Glass, Jewish-owned businesses and synagogues across German were broken into – their windows smashed – and ransacked on the night of Nov. 9, 1938. Thousands of Torahs, the first five books of the Bible, were destroyed.
One of the scrolls was saved by a teenager, Isaac Schwartz, who took it from a Hamburg synagogue that had been torched. Schwartz buried the Torah in the backyard of his Hamburg home before the family escaped to Venezuela, according to news reports.
Recovered after World War II, the Torah’s parchment was torn and the writing faded.
It was recently purchased by philanthropist Leonard Wien, who donated it to the Jewish Learning Institute. The Torah went through 18 months of rehabilitation as a sofer, or ritual scribe, rewrote the faded letters and replaced torn parts of the parchment.
Torahs are Judaism’s most sacred objects. It takes up to a year to craft by a sofer before it is stored in the ark in the front of a synagogue and read during services.
The restored scroll is currently on a world tour with Colorado Springs its next stop.
A public presentation will be held 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Chabad Lubavitch of Southern Colorado, located in a shopping plaza near West Rockrimmon Boulevard and Delmonico Drive.
“I look at this Torah as a beacon of hope, a beacon of courage, a beacon of overcoming negativity, where a little light dispels much darkness,” said Rabbi Moshe Liberow of the Colorado Springs synagogue. “Look at this courageous act by this boy to bravely take this Torah.”
Liberow said one aim of Thursday’s event is to help strengthen the community, all while providing residents a look at a scroll that has survived through decades.
“It made its way out of that inferno,” Liberow said. “And now, thank G-d, this Torah can be enjoyed by so many communities around the world.”
The rabbi said having the Torah in Colorado Springs is an opportunity to educate the wider community about the Holocaust and how Judaism and Jewish values were rekindled after the genocide.
The synagogue in northern Colorado Springs was the target of a hate crime last year.
In June 2017, a man placed an anti-Israel sticker on the front door of the Jewish synagogue. It read, “FIGHT TERROR, NUKE ISRAEL”. William Scott Planer, a white supremacist, was arrested about a month later on suspicion of bias-motivated crimes, police said.