health mind and body

Calvary Hospital plans to restore an 1880 Prague Torah


A yearlong restoration of a Torah scroll dating to 1880 is being undertaken by Calvary Hospital.

The scroll — No. 515, from the town of Taus-Domazlice in the former Czechoslovakia — is housed at the hospital’s Bronx campus. The goal is to bring this Torah back to kosher status, so that it may once again be used in religious services. 

The Torah is on permanent loan to Calvary from the Westminster Memorial Scrolls Trust in London.

A kick-off ceremony and educational program is planned for Nov. 9, the anniversary of Kristallnacht, said Rabbi Rachmiel Rothberger, Calvary’s Jewish Community Liason and one of the hospital’s chaplains. Nazis in Germany and Austria systematically attacked Jews on Kristallnacht in 1938. Jews were killed, beaten and terrorized, their property smashed and looted.

“This Torah restoration project is exactly what the Nazis would not want to have happen on that day,” Rabbi Rothenberger said. “It is our way of showing that they did not succeed.”

“From the hospital’s earliest years, Calvary has always welcomed patients from all religions,” explained Calvary President and CEO Frank A. Calamari. “We are dedicated to providing the best end-of-life care that a person can find. At Calvary, we also honor and celebrate the spiritual and faith traditions that are so important to our patients, families and staff.”

Rabbi Rothberger, a Woodmere resident, said the restoration will include patching some holes in the parchment, and filling in letters that are pitted, faded, or cracked. Before that happens, the parchment will be stretched, to take out creases that have developed in the 135 years of the scroll’s existence. If that is not done, the ink of the letters will simply crack once again.

The historic look and feel of this Torah will be preserved as well. Rabbi Rothberger said that the type of parchment used to repair it will match the existing parchment, rather than sewing in salvaged panels from other damaged scrolls that may have a different color or texture.

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