Our Holocaust Torah

I am the Jewish Congregation of Venice's Holocaust Torah and I was escorted by Leona Uchitelle to Princeton, New Jersey, to meet six of my sister Holocaust Torahs from Susice, Czechoslovakia.

I don’t have a memory of my much earlier life, but I am at rest and happy where I am now. I know that there was much excitement about my trip. I was bubble wrapped and had a tallit wrapped around me for a flight. I had a ticket for my own window seat. What I didn’t know was that I would end up in first class, while my escort sat in coach.

After my flight, I was driven to the Jewish Center of Princeton, where my sisters were to meet. I cried when we seven were together for the first time in 70 years. Some of us weathered well and were still used at services. Some, like me, lived in cases in foyers, but we got to look at the comings and goings of congregants. We are happy.

Sunday was my day. I met the children of the congregation and told them about myself. I told them how I was number 664. I had just met numbers 320 and 1360. Since there were 1596 Holocaust Torahs from Czechoslovakia, the congregation that got number 1360 was lucky. We seven Torahs came from Michigan, Illinois, California, Colorado, Florida and New Jersey. Some of the children had grandparents who were survivors--like me.

Later in the day, there was much excitement in our meeting room. The last known surviving Jew from Susice, who now lives in New Jersey, is coming to meet us. Her father and brother may have read from my scroll! Hana is her name and she is 96 years old. Because we wanted to be presented to her, we stayed out of sight while over 300 people saw a video of an interview with Hana and they waited for us. We heard about Auschwitz and how she survived to go back to Susice and then to America. We cried and the rain fell outdoors.

Finally, surrounded by small children, teenagers and young adults, and with music, we seven sister Torahs were proudly carried to be presented to the community and to have Hana embrace each of us. She touched us lovingly and she stroked my beautiful velvet gown. We cried. We were carried to the Ark, where there were friendly hands to put us inside. People still cried. I felt special because I was placed on the front row and you could read my inscription. The Torah from the Jewish Center of Princeton was kept aside. Two passages were read from it: Deuteronomy 29:9-14 and 30:15-20. The Ark was closed and we heard a prayer that we had heard every time we were put back in the Ark. Now there was joy and singing. The singing vibrated through the sanctuary and we were happy. People couldn’t get enough of my sisters and me. The Rabbi opened the Ark and dozens of people came up to see us and to take pictures my sisters and me. We were so proud.

My day wasn’t over. I was wrapped again for a journey. I’ll probably never see my sisters again, but this was a reunion that may help ease any horrific memories that might awake in some of us again. 

Just let it be known that there was electricity in that synagogue that Sunday afternoon. There was, perhaps, some closure to a bad time. It rained outside, but the tears inside that synagogue were of joy and the vow of NEVER AGAIN resonated. Am Yisrael Chi.

Oh yes, I got the window seat back to Tampa.

This article is by Leona Uchitelle, Co-President and Escort of the Holocaust Torah donated by Karl and Lilly Ebner in 1989.