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Our Czech Memorial Scroll

From Kolín to Mahwah


Our procession with the Torah in front, under a Jewish wedding canopy.

Processing to the Gross Center with the Torah under a Jewish wedding canopy.

The Gross Center welcomed a Czech Memorial Scroll to Ramapo Campus at a moving ceremony on May 1, 2023. It is on permanent loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust.

Before WWII, the Torah belonged to the Jewish community of Kolín, a city forty miles east of Prague. Experts estimate that it was written in the mid-eighteenth century.

The Gross Center thanks Cipora Schwartz and Dr. Susan Gaulden for their generosity, which made it possible to obtain our scroll.

Click for our dedication ceremony

Click to read about our scroll and event in the Jewish Standard

Gross Center Director Jacob Labendz with the Torah on display at the Center.

Gross Center Director Jacob Labendz with the Torah on display at the Center.



Please contact us to schedule a visit to see and learn more about our scroll and our related programs. We would be delighted to welcome school groups.



Become Involved

We invite you to sponsor our Czech Memorial Scroll for one month in honor or memory of someone or something dear to you. The minimum contribution is $360. Months may have multiple sponsors. The sponsors and their honorees will be listed on our website and displayed prominently in the Gross Center.

Sponsor our Scroll

We encourage communities with Czech Memorial Scrolls to contact us, so we may build on this foundation and create a multisite, digital exhibition. Gross Center director, Dr. Jacob Ari Labendz, is a scholar of Czech-Jewish history and will gladly assist you in researching the history of your scroll’s community of origin.

The Czech Memorial Scrolls

Rabbi Norman Patz with white hear and a goatie hands a Torah, bound with a black chord, to Jacob Labendz, in a red sweater and COVID mask

Rabbi Norman Patz hands a Czech Torah to Dr. Jacob Labendz on behalf of the Memorial Scrolls Trust

Our Kolín scroll comes from a collection of over 1,800 Bohemian and Moravian Torahs which survived the Holocaust in Prague’s Central Jewish Museum. With the permission of the Nazi Protectorate, Jewish scholars and workers preserved the material heritage of their communities, as the Nazis deported the region’s Jews to Terezín and other sites of atrocity. In 1964, state officials induced the State Jewish Museum—nationalized in 1950—to sell what remained of the collection, 1,564 scrolls. Artia, the state agency that managed art sales abroad, contacted Eric Estorick, a well known dealer. Estorick arranged for Ralph Yablon to purchase the collection, which he, in turn, donated to the Westminster Synagogue in London. The new custodians repaired the scrolls and founded the Memorial Scrolls Trust to distribute them on a permanent loan basis to Jewish communities and organizations around the world. There are now over 1,000 Czech scrolls in the US, including one at the White House.

In September 2023, the Memorial Scrolls Trust will release a new book about the scrolls by Miles Laddie, 1564 Scrolls: A Legacy of Jewish Life in Bohemia and Moravia. Congregations with scrolls and other institutions may purchase 10-packs here.

The Jews of Kolín

Interior pic of Kolín Synagogue

Synagogue in Kolín, Newly Restored

Jews had already settled in Kolín by the early 1400s. The community grew in numbers and significance in the fifteenth century, due to the city’s commercial importance and expulsions from nearby towns. The Jews of Kolín weathered expulsions and returns, along with their coreligionists across Bohemia, over the next three hundred years—but also thrived. The Jewish community reached its largest size in the mid-nineteenth century, shortly after emancipation, with some 1,350 members, who composed 17% of the total population. The community, which had once boasted a yeshiva, shrank thereafter, due to the voluntary relocation of many Jews to Prague. It remained, nonetheless, an important locus of Jewish cultural and political life. In the census of 1930, 430 Kolín residents declared themselves Jewish by religion. Twelve years later, the Nazis deported 2,202 Jews from the Kolín region to Terezín. They murdered all but 134. Only sixty-nine Jews returned to the Kolín after the Holocaust, including Rabbi Richard Feder (1875-1970), who had led the community there for two decades preceding the war. In short time, the community ceased to function. Building on precedent from the 1980s, the City of Kolín and its citizens have invested heavily in memorializing their city’s Jewish past.

From our Elected Officials (Click to View)

Letter from Senator Cory Booker (Click to Enlarge)

Senator Cory Booker / Click for PDF

Letter from Senator Menendez congratulating the Gross Center on obtaining a Czech Memorial Scroll

Senator Robert Menendez / Click for PDF

Commemorative plaque from Mahwah Township.

Commemorative plaque from Mahwah Township / Click for PDF

Click for Video Remarks from Michael Kašpar, the Mayor of Kolín