‘It’s an honour’: Toronto Holocaust survivors rewrite nearly century old Torah scroll 

Toronto Holocaust survivors participate in the rewriting of a Torah scroll that was discovered more than 75 years after being hidden during the Holocaust. (Courtesy: Sehaj Goyal)


Toronto Holocaust survivors gathered on Wednesday to participate in the rewriting of a Torah scroll that was discovered more than 75 years after being hidden during the Holocaust. 

The initiative is part of the Survivor Torah Project, organized by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, in collaboration with the Baycrest Foundation and From the Depths

The project was presented at The Apotex Centre, Jewish Home for the Aged in Toronto’s Baycrest Centre. The facility is home to one of the largest communities of Holocaust survivors in Canada.

The Torah scroll has gone through great lengths to stay protected during the Holocaust. The Torah was later discovered by From the Depths in dire condition after remaining hidden for three quarters of a century. Today, it is being restored, letter by letter, by Holocaust survivors. 

Courtesy: Sehaj Goyal

Founder and Executive Director of From the Depths Jonny Daniels tells its harrowing story. 

“The Survival Torah is a Torah that was rescued from the ashes of the Holocaust. A Polish shepherd hid this Torah as a final wish of his neighbour who was the rabbi of the village. Unfortunately, all the Jews are rounded up and killed the same day in Treblinka concentration camp,” he said. 

The Torah refers to the five books of the Hebrew Bible and is also referred to as the Written Torah. It is considered the most significant book for the Jewish people. 

Daniels says the opportunity to sign and inscribe the Torah is a unique experience for survivors because it gives them a level of closure and a level of connection that’s extremely special. 

“As Jews, we believe in 613 commandments that were given to us by Gods and the 613th commandment, the final commandment, is that one should write a Torah and taking part in this gives them the chance to fulfill this mitzvah, this commandment and good deed,” he explained. 

Holocaust survivor Kathleen Zahavi lost her whole family in the genocide. She says this experience is for her children and grandchildren, so that they can cherish this memory. 

Courtesy: Sehaj Goyal

“My children, I have a daughter and a son, they never had grandparents. They never have any cousins, any relatives, so I feel that it’s an honour that I can speak to the young people,” she said.

The event not only acted as an opportunity for Holocaust survivors, but as an occasion to learn from them as well. 

“We have this opportunity to learn from people who have seen the worst of humanity and who have been through the most difficult and harshest times, now’s our opportunity, at the final moment truly, to sit with them, to learn from them, to take with them, and to try and appreciate what we can learn from their past,” Daniels said. 

He added the most important part of this initiative is giving them love while people still can and making sure their stories are told. 

“I think the most important thing for all of us is to attempt to meet people like this. Most of them are very happy to sit down to talk and tell their stories and learn from their stories about what it is to be a better person, to do right in the world, to love unconditionally and be decent unconditionally,” he said.

“And at the end of the day, all of us were made in God’s image, all of us are exactly the same and this really is the most important thing from this story,” he added.

The Torah is currently being rewritten by Holocaust survivors around the world. Once completed, the scroll will have a new home in the synagogue of the President of Israel’s residence.



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