Board of Deputies Checking Disused Jewish Cemeteries in Britain
ISJM, October 12, 2008
Ruth Ellen Gruber provides a link an article by Leon Symons in the Jewish Chronicle (UK). Ruth writes: "abandoned, disused and neglected Jewish cemeteries are not just a problem in post-communist countries and elsewhere in Europe where most Jews were murdered in the Shoah. But concern over what to do, how to do it, who should do it, and how whatever is done should be financed is a serious issue in other countries, too."
The British Board of Deputies is acting rather late in the day to address this problem. Reports of neglected and abandoned cemeteries in the UK have been a regular news feature in the Jewish Chronicle and elsewhere for years. There are several good precedents for the management of abandoned cemeteries. The state of Massachusetts (USA) has one of the best programs.
From The Jewish Chronicle
Leon Symons (October 3, 2008):
The Board of Deputies has begun an audit of all the cemeteries it looks after in Britain to find out who owns them and who is responsible for their upkeep. It has also launched an appeal to raise the funds needed to maintain the cemeteries, hoping to generate around £50,000.
Solicitor David Marcus, the deputy for Muswell Hill, has begun researching Land Registry and other records to try to find out who owns the cemeteries, some of which are centuries old.
"The Board has accepted responsibility for cemeteries around the country, virtually all of which are now out of use," Mr Marcus explained. Some have title deeds in the name of Board honorary officers who have died, while others are in the name of the local community, or with the local authority.
"We want to start a new company and place in it all the cemeteries and any others that become its responsibility, so they are outside the Board. For example, a number are mentioned on the Jewish Heritage website, some of which are at risk, that we know nothing about and are not part of the Board's group. The problem is: Who will look after them?"
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New Czech Scrolls Museum To Open in London, September 17th, 2008
By Samuel Gruber
ISJM, September 16, 2008
The Memorial Scrolls Trust has entirely redesigned and reinstalled is facilities at Kent House in London to create a new Czech Scroll Museum, to open to the public with a reception on the evening of September 17th. The previous exhibition has been in place since 1988. I have written about the story of the scrolls before but it is a story that merits retelling.
In 1964, 1,564 Torah Scrolls arrived at Kent House in London, the home of London's Westminster Synagogue. After intense negotiations, they were brought from a dilapidated synagogue in Prague where they had moldered since they were collected from the Jewish congregations of Moravia and Bohemia at the time of their destruction. In London, during the next four decades, in a suite of rooms above the synagogue at Kent House, many of the scrolls were restored for synagogue service while others were used as memorials. Almost all the scrolls have been sent out to communities across the world, where their use and exhibition is a constant reminder of the Holocaust.
The existence of the Torah scrolls is a constant reminder of the murder of Czech Jews and the destruction of Czech Jewish communities and synagogues in the Holocaust. The survival of the Torah scrolls and their rescue and repair and subsequent distribution to Jewish communities throughout the world, is in its simplest terms, testimony to the resilience of Judaism and the Jewish people. The new museum, which is the product of the energy and commitment of Evelyn Friedlander, Chair and Curator of the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust, and German designer Fritz Armbruster, tells these stories, and more. The Jewish Museum in Prague has provided support, information and contributed exhibition objects on loan.
In addition to commemorating those tens of thousands of Czech Jews killed in the Holocaust, Evelyn Friedlander writers in the Trust's newsletter that "The Museum is also a memorial to two groups of people; the Jews of the Prague Jewish community who worked at the Central Jewish Museum and who proposed the plan that enabled so many ritual objects to be saved. The second group to be honored in our new exhibition is those founder members of Westminster Synagogue, who, under the leadership of Rabbi Harold Reinhart, enabled these Scrolls to be brought to London. Here, they were returned to life and distributed to communities all over the world."
The new museum shows the various stages of the story of the rescue of the Scrolls, from the tragedy of the Czech Jewish community under the Nazis, to the arrival of the Scrolls in London, the subsequent work done by professional scribes, the sending out of the scrolls to their new Jewish (and non-Jewish homes) and the present-day research undertaken by those recipients to explore the background of their Scroll.
Among the exhibits are the remaining scrolls lying on the original wooden racks where they were placed when they arrived, and an display of some of the Torah binders which were tied around the scrolls. The exhibition also shows the scribe's table where he worked meticulously upon the scrolls, together with his ink, pens and other equipment.
The Museum will open on 17th September and thereafter will be open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am to 4 pm. Groups are asked to contact the Trust to arrange party visits.
Address: Westminster Synagogue, Rutland Gardens, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1BX
Tel: 020 7584 3741