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Torah saved from flames of 'Kristallnacht' on display at Colorado Springs synagogue

By: Chhun Sun
May 28, 2018 Updated: May 28, 2018 at 12:06 pm
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Rabbi Moshe Liberow of Chabad Lubavitch of Southern Colorado looks through a Holocaust-era Torah scroll, which will be on display at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Colorado Springs synagogue. (Photo by Chhun Sun, The Gazette)

A Holocaust-era Torah scroll saved by a 14-year-old boy will be displayed this week at a Colorado Springs synagogue to commemorate the 80th anniversary of attacks that preceded Nazi Germany's killing of 6 million Jews during World War II.

During "Kristallnacht" - the Night of Broken Glass on Nov. 9, 1938 - windows were smashed at Jewish businesses and synagogues that were ransacked across Germany. Thousands of Torahs, the first five books of the Bible, were destroyed.

Teenager Isaac Schwartz saved one scroll from a Hamburg synagogue that had been torched. Schwartz buried the Torah in the backyard of his Hamburg home before the family escaped to Venezuela, news reports say.

The Torah was recovered after World War II, its parchment torn and writing faded.

Philanthropist Leonard Wien recently bought it and donated it to the Jewish Learning Institute. The Torah went through 18 months of rehabilitation as a sofer, or ritual scribe, rewrote the faded letters and replaced torn pieces.

Torahs are Judaism's most sacred objects. A sofer takes up to a year to craft a Torah before it is stored in the synagogue ark and read during services.

The restored scroll is on a world tour, with Colorado Springs its next stop.

A public presentation will be at 6;30 p.m. Thursday at Chabad Lubavitch of Southern Colorado, 6616A Delmonico Drive, in a shopping plaza near West Rockrimmon Boulevard and Delmonico Drive.

"I look at this Torah as a beacon of hope, a beacon of courage, a beacon of overcoming negativity, where a little light dispels much darkness," said Rabbi Moshe Liberow of Chabad Lubavitch. "Look at this courageous act by this boy to bravely take this Torah."

One aim of Thursday's event is to strengthen the community while giving residents a look at a scroll that has survived decades, Liberow said.

"It made its way out of that inferno," he said. "And now, thank God, this Torah can be enjoyed by so many communities around the world."

The Torah's presence in Colorado Springs provvides an opportunity to educate the community about the Holocaust and how Judaism and Jewish values were rekindled afterward, the rabbi said.

"A lot of people are not that familiar with the tragedies that occurred 70 years ago and, on a positive note, how we've been able to rekindle and grow and prosper Judaism and Jewish values and the Jewish lifestyle," Liberow said.

The synogogue in northern Colorado Springs was the target of a hate crime last year.

In June 2017, a man placed an anti-Israel sticker on its front door, saying "FIGHT TERROR, NUKE ISRAEL." William Scott Planer, a white supremacist, was arrested about a month later on suspicion of bias-motivated crimes, police said.

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