donated by Sandra and Ronnie Lask
This was the fulfillment of Sandra's personal journey to honour the memory of the many members of her family from Germany who were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust as well as the 6 million who perished. And to pass the responsibility of remembrance to future generations. Celebrating with them on this special occasion were sons Howard and Sean.
We could think of no better way of doing this than by finding and dedicating a Sefer Torah that survived the holocaust in their names
Remembrance is vital and this extract from a speech by the late great Eli Wiesel sums up beautifully the reason why the dedication was so important to her.
"How does one mourn for six million people who died? How many candles does one light? How many prayers does one recite? Do we know how to remember the victims, their solitude, their helplessness? They left us without a trace and we are their trace. What was and remains clear is that if we forget them, we too shall be forgotten"
Zaporozhye is located in the eastern part of Ukraine on the bank of the Dnieper river. Before Wor ld War IIthere had been a quiet life for Jewish people. But in august 1941 Nazis entered the city and horrible things started to happen. People were collected, sorted,those who weren't in favor were shot away.
This story is about the middle of 1942. The Gurevich were a religious Jewish family. They had the Sefer Torah which was used in the underground synagogues as the official synagogue stopped its existing when the enemy came. The head of the family Semen Gurevich treasured it and kept it in a wooden box. But during 1942 a large number of Jews were gathered near the synagogue on Turgenev st. From there they were taken to the wasteland and it was the last thing they saw (20.000 Jews were shot there). Many of them knew what was about to happen to them and tried to
at least save their children and some of them managed to evacuate.
So Semen - the head of the family - was also supposed to go to the synagogue that day. He realized that he would never come back from the synagogue, that Germans would wipe out all the Jews and then destroy the synagogue itself. He had an eleven-year-old son Mihoel. Semen handed his son the wooden box with the Sefer Torah and explained how to take care of it. It had to be taken out from the box and ventilated from time to time. He asked his son to give the Sefer Torah to the synagogue if it would ever be built in Zaporozhye.
Semen found a Ukrainian family that agreed to shelter his son and keep the priceless Sefer Torah. Those were righteous people who under fear of death kept humanity and compassion.
Unfortunately 53-year-old Semen Gurevich was shot along with other members of the Jewish community. Nowadays there is a Holocaust Memorial on that place.
All the years of war those righteous people concealed Mihoel from Nazis and the box with the Sefer was kept in their cellar.Only in 1945 as the war was over they took the Sefer out of it, gave it to the boy and it was kept in the house since then.
As the years passed, Mihoel Gurevich grew up. He started his own family, fathered a son Alexander. Mihoel continued treasuring his family relic.
When his son grew up, Mihoel passed the Sefer Torah to Alexander. He told his son how difficult it had been to protect the Sefer during the war and all his life long. He entrusted his son to hand the Sefer Torah to the synagogue if it would ever appear in Zaporozhye and if not - take it to Israel. He truly believed that one day the Sefer Torah will end up at the synagogue.
Ten years ago, in 2010,Alexander Gourevich decided to honor the will of his father and grandfather. He invited me to watch the Sefer and share its complicated fate. This man did not understand what treasure he possessed. When Isaw the Sefer Torah Iwas extremely surprised because it turned out to be in a great condition despite everything it had been through. Alexander
gave me the Sefer for a nominal fee following his father's will.
Since then I have had the Sefer Torah and it is a great honor to possess a sefer with such a history.
In 2008 Alexander passed away, he suffered from a cruel disease. I express my deepest condolences to the family of Alexander Gurevich and his widow - Fira Pismichenko.
Today Jewish community's life actively flows on in Zaporozhye. With God's help our community has built a new synagogue, a Jewish school and a kindergarten. Our community grows and prospers every day!
Sefer Torah Dedication
in memory of Jennifer Bloch
Woodside Park stops traffic to celebrate
the arrival of a new Sefer Torah
Woodside Park United Synagogue on Sunday was out in force to celebrate the arrival of a new Sefer Torah.
The roads around the shul were closed as crowds gathered to dance, sing, and enjoy such a special event for the shul.
The Sefer Torah was dedicated in memory of Jennifer Bloch, whose family have been associated with the shul for many years.
Jennifer grew up in a Jewish community in north-west London. She trained both as a secretary and a teacher before living and working in Israel for some years. Subsequently, she helped to run the family publishing company of Soncino Press in both London and New York. While in America, Jenni (as she was also known) started teaching at Jewish day schools, and it soon became clear that teaching was her true vocation. It was work that brought together her Jewish background and knowledge, her love of Yiddishkeit, her capabilities as an educator, and her willingness to help others whenever she could.
The families decision for this wonderful dedication was made in the realisation that so much of what was important to Jennifer, and so many of the traits that made up her character, are embodied in Jewish scriptures and teachings. Jennifer helped to pass on the lessons of the Torah to the children of Am Yisroel, so it seemed fitting that she should be remembered through the dedication of a Sefer Torah in her name.
Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu was the Guest of Honour at the dedication. A cousin of the Bloch family he told the large gathering that in the material world there is nothing that is eternal, and that permanency can only come from the spiritual. He went on to say that the Torah therefore symbolises eternity and as it is dedicated in Jennifer's name it will have an impact for eternity in its teachings which were demonstrated in Jennifer, she radiated goodness of heart and character, had deep humanity, charm, and an unswerving faith in Hashem, demonstrating spiritual fortitude which remained undaunted even in the darkest days. Her inheritance like the Torah will live on in generations to come.
Jennifer's nephew Nick, will be the first to leyn from this special Sefer Torah this Shabbat.