Our Klatovy Scroll

I have always taken an interest in the 1500 or so Torah Scrolls that arrived in London from Czechoslovakia in 1964. My late father came from Klatovy; his father, grandfather and great grandfather all lived there. They were part of the Jewish community that was transported to Terezin Concentration camp in 1942.

I was aware that there were 5 Torah Scrolls, originally from Klatovy, around the world following distribution by the Memorial Scrolls Trust, which is the custodian of those scrolls. The nearest one is with the Thanet Community in Ramsgate. Others are in the USA.

I was invited to attend a celebration in the Westminster Synagogue in 2004 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the arrival of the Czech scrolls in England. After the ceremony the congregation was invited to view the many scrolls that had been brought there. Each one had a slip of paper on it with the name of the town it came from. I was slowly making my way down the line of scrolls trying to recall the whereabouts of the towns they came from.

I came to sudden halt when I saw a scroll with the word “Klatovy” on the slip of paper. That had to be a sixth Klatovy scroll that I knew nothing about. I rushed around the hall asking who had brought that scroll. I eventually found him and asked where the scroll is now kept.

He told me that it was being used by a small congregation in Hampstead that had no permanent home but held services in congregants’ homes. I was even more surprised to discover that their Rabbi is Larry Tabick, the husband of our then Rabbi Jackie Tabick. Apparently the scroll was kept and transported in a black bag, but when not in use it was stored under their bed for safe keeping!

I immediately phoned Larry and told him I wanted “my” scroll back. We met and agreed to exchange the Klatovy scroll for a very small scroll we had at Weybridge. That suited Larry as the scroll we gave him was much smaller and lighter than the Klatovy scroll, so it would be easier to carry around.

Although there is no evidence that my father, grand father, great grandfather and great great grandfather had read from this particular scroll, it is quite possible that they had.

In 2006, three years after we acquired the scroll, approximately 80 people, family and friends, and 4 Rabbis, travelled to Klatovy with “our” scroll, and with another Klatovy scroll kept in a congregation in USA, to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of our youngest son, Richard. We like to think that he was the sixth generation of the Barth family to have read from “our” scroll.

Tom Barth