KIEV, Ukraine (JTA) — The state archive of Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region returned historic damaged Torah scrolls to the local Jewish community two years after confiscating them.
Some 221 Torah scrolls’ fragments were returned late last week from the state archive, one of six archival institutions in Ukraine where Torah scrolls are stored.
Zhytomyr officials confiscated hundreds of Torah scrolls and religious books from the local Jewish community two years ago, claiming that the community was neglecting the historically valuable property.
Shlomo Wilhelm, the chief rabbi of Zhytomyr and the surrounding region, Rabbi Yehoshua Raskin of Khmelnitskiy, and businessman Moshe Anapolsky, repeatedly appeared before governmental committees, advocating for the return of the items.
Some Zhytomyr Jewish activists told JTA that the fragments returned last week are not the scrolls that were confiscated two years ago, which appeared to be repairable. Instead, they say, the archive released fragments of scrolls which are no longer usable and are destined to be buried in Jewish cemeteries.
Ukraine’s rabbis insist that all Torah scrolls and fragments being held by the Ukrainian State Archives must be returned to their Jewish communities.
President Viktor Yuschenko last year issued a decree ordering the restoration of Jewish religious objects to Ukraine’s Jewish communities.