The Joliet Jewish Congregation is honored to have a torah (MST#429) from the Jewish Community of Bzenec, Czechoslovakia. This torah is on permanent loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London.
The Jewish community of Bzenec can be traced back to before 1458 when it was referred by a medieval chronicler as a “nest of Jews.” Information from 1604 shows 400 Jewish residents in the town, owning 49 buildings and a Jewish hospital. In 1857, the Jewish community peaked at 965 persons with a matzah factory, sugar refinery and a new synagogue all being built by 1863. By 1930 only 138 Jews were counted in Bzenec. In January of 1943, all remaining Jews in the town of Bzenec were deported to Theresienstadt Concentration Camp; later they were sent to the Nazi death camps. All of the items from the synagogue were sent to the Jewish Central Museum in Prague. The torah scrolls later found their way to the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London and ultimately to the Joliet Jewish Congregation in Joliet, IL in 1985.
The Czech Torah sits in a place of honor in the main sanctuary ark in our Synagogue. The torah is no longer used for reading; however, it is a centerpiece of Yom Ha'Shoah events that include Sunday school students, local school groups and visiting community members.