Historic Torah scrolls buried in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (JTA) — The Jewish community in a western Ukrainian city buried the fragments of 221 damaged Torah scrolls recently returned by the state.

The fragments and damaged Torah scrolls were buried Tuesday in accordance with Jewish law in the Zhytomir Jewish cemetery. 

The items were returned in late March from the local state archive to the Jewish community two years after they were confiscated by Ukrainian authorities.

Activists in the Jewish community, representatives of local authorities and journalists took part in the ceremony on the eve of 9th of Av near the local synagogue building, after which all the Torah fragments were buried at the Jewish cemetery.

Ukraine’s rabbis have been pressing for all Torah scrolls and fragments being held by the Ukrainian State Archives to be returned to their Jewish communities.

Ukrainian President Victor Yuschenko signed a decree in 2007 ordering the restoration of Jewish religious objects to the country’s Jewish communities.

Yuriy Reshetnikov, chairman of the Ukrainian State Committee on Nationalities and Religions, told JTA that the religious objects must be used to help revitalize Jewish religious life in Ukraine.

Ukraine is home to the third-largest Jewish community in Europe, with 150,000 to 250,000 Jews.

Local rabbis say Jewish communities need many of the Torah scrolls languishing in state archives, which can be restored and used during services.

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