From Auschwitz, a Torah as Strong as Its Spirit





The back story of how a Torah got from the fetid barracks of Auschwitz to the ark of the Central Synagogue at Lexington Avenue and 55th Street is one the pastor of the Lutheran church down the street sums up as simply “miraculous.”

It is the story of a sexton in the synagogue in the Polish city of Oswiecim who buried most of the sacred scroll before the Germans stormed in and later renamed the city Auschwitz. It is the story of Jewish prisoners who sneaked the rest of it — four carefully chosen panels — into the concentration camp.

It is the story of a Polish Catholic priest to whom they entrusted the four panels before their deaths. It is the story of a Maryland rabbi who went looking for it with a metal detector. And it is the story of how a hunch by the rabbi’s 13-year-old son helped lead him to it.

This Torah, more than most, “is such an extraordinary symbol of rebirth,” said Peter J. Rubinstein, the rabbi of Central Synagogue. “As one who has gone to the camps and assimilates into my being the horror of the Holocaust, this gives meaning to Jewish survival.”

On Wednesday, the restored Torah will be rededicated in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which for more than 20 years the congregation of Central Synagogue has observed in conjunction with its neighbor, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, at Lexington Avenue and 54th Street.


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