Barbados Jewish Community

Our Czech Scroll

History of our Scroll

The Torah Scroll on loan to us from the Memorial Scrolls Trust is one of 1564 scrolls from Bohemia and Moravia, what is now the Czech Republic, from the town of Třebíč.

It is likely that it was written around 1900, and was sent to the Prague Jewish Museum in 1942 with the strange encouragement and support of the Nazi regime, along with other Torah scrolls from Třebíč. and other communities throughout the country.

Třebíč had a Jewish community dating back to the year 938, and until 1938 there were two synagogues, one built in 1639 and another in 1707.  During the Holocaust 1370 Jews were assembled in Třebíč and deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp.  Only 35 of them survived.  Today there are no Jews living in Třebíč.

Torah Scroll No 332   was one of the 1564 Torah scrolls meticulously recorded, labelled and entered on a card index by the Prague Jewish Museum staff, with a description of the place it had come from.  Along with hundreds of thousands of other religious artifacts that were confiscated, with what we believe was the intention of creating a ‘museum of an extinct race.’

After the war, they were transferred to the ruined Michle synagogue outside Prague, where they remained until they were rescued by the Westminster Synagogue and sent to Kent House in London in 1964.  You can read the story via this link.

When did our Scroll arrive in Barbados

The Barbados Jewish Community was originally established close to the time that the British settled on the island in 1627 and the Nidhe Israel Synagogue was built in 1654.  It was completely destroyed in the 1831 hurricane and subsequently rebuilt two years later.  The Synagogue fell into disrepair and the last remaining  Sephardi Jew, Mr Baez, died in 1934 and the building which housed the Nidhe Israel Synagogue was sold.

Meanwhile, in the 1930s, the Jewish community re-emerged with immigrants from Eastern Europe fleeing the holocaust, about 40 families in all.   The first phase of restoration of the Synagogue was in 1987, and the building was used for the Jewish Council in that year.

The art dealer, Eric Estorik, a resident of Barbados and a pillar of the Jewish community, was instrumental in helping to acquire the Torah Scrolls from Prague and their subsequent move to Westminster Synagogue in 1964.  In March 1997, an application was made by the Barbados Community to the Memorial Scrolls Trust for one of the Holocaust Scrolls, and on 11th March 1997, Sir Paul Altman confirmed that the Torah Scroll No 332 has been received by the Barbados Jewish Community on loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust. Some meaningful correspondence has been digitised in the Synagogue archives between the MST and the Nidhe Israel.

The Scroll has been housed in the Ark of whichever of the two Synagogues is in use – during the winter months at Nidhe Israel and during the spring/summer months at the Sha’are Zedek.   In January 2019, as is the tradition with other Scroll communities around the world, it was used for the B’nei Mitzvah of twins of a visiting family from New York.