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Congregation in Hawaii Using Torah That Once Belonged to Czech Jewish Community, All of Whose Member

April 10, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Torah that once belonged to a Jewish community in the Czechoslovak town of Polna, all of whose members were exterminated by the Nazis, is now being used by a five-year-old congregation in Hawaii.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D. Hawaii) described the event to the Senate last week which brought the 200-year-old Torah to Congregation Beth Shalom in Kona, Hawaii. “In 1940, as the country fell under the boots of the Nazis, Polna’s Jewish community was deported to the concentration camps never to return,” Inouye said.

The Torah and other communal possessions were sent to Prague where they were part of 15,000 Jewish manuscripts, books and other objects with which the Nazis wanted to create “a museum of the extinct race.” These items later became part of the Jewish Museum in Prague.


Last year, through the efforts of Mark Talisman, director of the Washington office of the Council of Jewish Federations, 350 of these items were brought to the United States where they are being viewed across the country as part of a major exhibit sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution called, “The Precious Legacy.”

Earlier, however, Czechoslovakia sent more than 1,500 Torahs to London where they are being cared for at the Westminster Synagogue. Recently, Jacob Tzur, president of the Jewish Federation of Hawaii, and Barry Shain, its executive director, asked Talisman’s help in receiving one of the Torahs for the Kona Synagogue which has grown to 60 families, about the size of the Polna community when it was destroyed.

Talisman and his family accompanied the Torah to Hawaii where a ceremony was held, attended by some 250 persons, Jews and non-Jews. Talisman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that as the ceremony was going on they could see through the window a group of whales passing which the native Hawaiians at the ceremony noted was a good omen.


“Having the Polna Torah in our midst, in Hawaii, in the loving care not only of the growing congregation of Beth Shalom but among all of us, serves to allow us to remember the horrors the past which allowed Polna’s Jewish community to be destroyed completely, but allows each of us to remember that loss, so as to never allow such cruelty to happen to anyone ever again,” Inouye told the Senate.

“From these ashes has arisen in Kona the hope and prayers of a bright and creative future filled with peace which now eminates from our remembrances of those who have perished.”

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