In the early 1960s, 1564 Torah scrolls from the Jewish communities of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia, destroyed by the Nazis, were uncovered in a disused building in Prague. Hearing about this, Rabbi Harold Reinhardt arranged for them to be brought to the Westminster Synagogue, where they arrived in February of 1964. The scrolls were systematically catalogued and evaluated, and sorted by condition. A Scribe set out on the enormous task of restoring the scrolls. The scrolls that were beyond repair were kept to form part of a new museum, based at the synagogue. The remainder were distributed on permanent loan to Jewish communities and organisations around the world.
Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue is the proud guardian of scroll number 1278, which originally belonged to the Jewish community of Frydek-Mistek [see Frydek Mistek below]. We call it our ‘Chai’ Scroll because sum of the numbers 1+2+7+8 = ‘18’, which in Hebrew is represented by the consonants, Chet (8) and Yud (10), which spell the word, Chai, ‘Life’.
We commemorate our Chai Czech scroll at different times of the year: in particular, on Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath between Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur, because the Jewish community of Frydek-Mistek was deported by the Nazis in 1942 at that sacred season, and during the seven weeks of the counting of the Omer, which commence on the second day of the Festival of Pesach. During the Omer period, we read from our Czech scroll each Shabbat.