Our Year of Living Torah: My Journey
By Judy Mannaberg-Goldman
Originally printed in CBB’s Voices magazine, Spring 2013 (page 15).
In the summer of 2011, I became involved with the restoration of our Czech Holocaust Memorial Scroll #35 from the Czech town of Pribram. My connection was extremely personal; my paternal family was from Czechoslovakia so my interest in this venture, at the outset, was purely selfish and highly emotional. I had to be as close as I could get to this project.
I agreed to do research to investigate the history of the Jews from Pribram. Michael Heppner who had been the Research Director of the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London, England, provided me with direction and support. I was bound to identify each Jew living in Pribram at the time of their deportation to Terezin, in September, 1942. Michael steered me in the direction of the Jewish Museum in Prague (JMP), Yad Vashem (YV) in Jerusalem and Beit Theresienstadt (BT) in Haifa. Armed with one list from BT, Michael showed me how to read ‘history’ from the lists, how to find discrepancies, how and why list numbers of deportees were not chronological and why the Rabbis and community leaders were deported first!
As I started combining the various lists, I was also reading volumes about the town of Pribram. A Jewish community existed there as early as the first half of the 17th century, a Chevra Kadisha is mentioned in 1645. Twenty six Jewish families are recorded in the late 18th century and it is believed that out of 267 Jews, only 8 survived the Nazi occupation and that the Jewish community was never revived.
After pouring over the lists for weeks, I discovered that I was beginning to know each person on the lists, acknowledging each and every individual. I was paying them homage and respect – they were mothers, grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles and friends.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah 2012, attendees at CBB’s service each read the name of a person living in Pribram at the time, from a card bearing the date and place of birth and death. Last year, we were blessed to have the Interfaith Community of Santa Barbara present, taking part, along with CBB, in performing the 613th mitzvah and remembering each one of the 267 Jews who perished from Pribram.
This past summer I was fortunate enough to have been invited to travel to Prague, Kolin and Pribram with Michael Heppner who, along with his synagogue in London, were taking their Kolin Torah back to its home.
I had the opportunity to visit Pribram, an hour southwest of Prague, where I met with the Director of the Pribram Museum, a mining museum. Pribram, in its hey day, was known as the Royal Mining City, mining silver, coal and later uranium. Although the importance of mining declined after 1900, the city’s reputation as an educational and cultural center continued. According to the International Jewish Cemetery Project, “although the majority of German forces had left the city before liberation, Pribram’s surroundings are the place where the last shots of WWII were fired.”
After spending time at the museum, I then met with the Mayor of Pribram. I explained my mission and the Torah project. They had no idea of the existence of the scrolls from the town but were enthusiastic about a plaque/memorial being erected in memory of the 267 Pribram Jews. There is no synagogue remaining, the only remnant of Jewish life is the cemetery which I stopped at on the way out of town.
We are currently working on how best to memorialize the Jews of Pribram with the Museum Director and the Mayor. We will remember the Jews of Pribram each time we read from Scroll #35 and I will remember the last letter re-inked in our Scroll.
The journey continues.