A survivor of the Holocaust
Saved from the ashes, a Torah scroll that survived the Holocaust will be on display this Saturday.

Courtesy photo

A survivor of the Holocaust

Story By: LIZ FINNEGAN
2/28/2019


ISLIP TOWN—On Saturday, March 2, Chabad of Islip Township will be using a rare artifact during their weekly service, which begins at 10 a.m. The Torah scroll that will be used on that day is actually one that was taken from a torched synagogue in Hamburg, Germany during the infamous Kristallnacht incident on Nov. 9, 1938.

In the tense years leading up to WWII in Nazi Germany, Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) stands out as a harbinger of the terror that led up to the Holocaust. On that night, Jewish homes, schools, businesses and houses of worship were vandalized and burned. Around 100 Jewish residents were killed and 30,000 Jewish men were taken to concentration camps.

It’s been reported that during the horror of that night, a teenager named Isaac Schwartz managed to save one of the scrolls from the burning synagogue near his home. He buried the Torah in his backyard before he and his family fled to Venezuela. It was recovered after the war and then hidden in Hungary. It was the son of the person who hid it that eventually brought it to the United States, where Florida businessman and philanthropist Leonard Wein had it restored.

 Rabbi Shimon Stillerman, of Chabad of Islip Township, said that Wein donated the scroll to the Jewish Learning Institute in Brooklyn, an educational organization, in 2014. It has since been lent out to various congregations around the world as a way to connect all people with the lessons of the Holocaust.

Rabbi Yisroel Beenstock of JLI said the scroll underwent intense restoration to bring it back to where it could once again be used in services. “It’s an amazing artifact,” he noted. “It’s a token of Jewish survival…a powerful connection to our past and our future.”

“The Holocaust is not just a piece of history, but something that is a lesson today,” said Stillerman. “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,” he said. “I had heard about [this Torah] and finally got the opportunity to bring it here.”

He noted that one of his motives to show this powerful symbol of survival is to give strength to the community. “I wanted to reach out in a way that [speaks to the people].”

Stillerman said he will read from the Torah during service on that day and there will be an opportunity for everyone to go up and kiss it after the service.

Chabad of Islip Township is located inside the American Legion Soldiers and Sailors building in Bay Shore at 102 E. Main Street. All are welcome to attend this service, which is free of charge.

Chabad of Islip is a non-denominational Jewish congregation that welcomes all practices of the religion. “Every Jew in town could be a member,” said Stillerman, adding that his congregants of around a few hundred people come from all over Islip Town, from West Islip to Blue Point, Brentwood, etc.

For more information on Chabad of Islip, go to the website www.chabadofislip.com.