A true story. A terrifying and beautiful story about humanity – lost and found. It is the story of the Sefer Torah, which has most recently come to Holy Blossom Temple.
Josh Slan, a fifth-generation Holy Blossom-ite, recently celebrated becoming a Bar Mitzvah. In a full voice he chanted from the Torah scroll, which has been in his mother’s family since the 1930’s. In the city of Radom, Poland, Abraham Kuperberg, Josh’s great, great-grandfather commissioned the Torah scroll to be written in memory of his wife. Forty percent of the city’s population was Jewish then. When the war came, the Radom Ghetto held 34,000 Jewish souls. Most were sent to Treblinka. Abraham, six of his children, and many grandchildren perished. Three sons survived — two in England, and only one, David, survived the camps.
When David returned to Radom, he found the once thriving Jewish population virtually annihilated, but somehow the family Torah survived. It is believed that a neighbour, a righteous Gentile, a righteous soul protected the Torah throughout the war years; and although there was every reason to believe the owners would never return to claim it, the neighbour kept that Torah safe and dry, even under the duress of war.
We can only imagine what that moment of reunion must have been like for Josh’s great-great uncle. When David returned and knocked on the door, he was greeted with the sacred scroll in tact. His family was lost forever, but his Torah was found. When there were no relatives to embrace, David’s arms were filled with this beautiful Torah scroll. Lost property restored. A measure of dignity restored. A measure of faith in humanity restored. And in 1947, when David joined his brother Bernard in Israel, he carried the family Torah with him.
The embroidered velvet mantel tells the story. The names of relatives who perished are stitched into the fabric, a loving and living memorial. Danny Cooper has now passed this family Torah onto his grandsons, Josh and Adam Slan; and they have, in turn, asked us, Holy Blossom Temple, to house and protect it on their behalf. It is our honour to do so. It has found its place in our Aron HaKodesh, beside many other Torah scrolls from across the Jewish world – from Germany and Iraq, from Romania and Egypt. If only they could speak, what stories would they tell?
Call and Response
These days between Pesach and Shavuot are the days when we prepare to receive Torah all over again. Each Shavuot we make as if we stand again at the foot of Mount Sinai and receive Torah with an open mind and a whole heart. That is how we welcome this treasure of a Torah scroll into our sanctuary. Come celebrate its arrival, hear its call, and respond.