Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Av 5762 - August 7, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Lithuania to Release 52 More Sifrei Torah
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Fifty-two more sifrei Torah and megilos will soon be handed over to the Jewish people by Lithuania, following the transfer of 309 previously undiscovered sifrei Torah scrolls that took place in January, according to Rabbi Abba Dunner, secretary- general of the Conference of European Rabbis.

The collection of scrolls, around 70-90 years old, was part of Nazi loot confiscated from the Jewish community of Lithuania during the Holocaust, which lay in the chapel of St. George Church in Vilnius for over 50 years.

"I knew they kept the best for themselves, because the quality of the ones they handed over was horrible," said Rabbi Dunner. "I discovered that there were 58 more scrolls."

Negotiations over the remaining scrolls were begun soon after the January ceremony, which included the president, foreign minister, and chairman of the Lithuania parliament, who gave the sifrei Torah to a Jewish-Israeli delegation that accepted the scrolls on behalf of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

"They kept stalling, telling me that the Torah scrolls were part of `Lithuanian Jewish culture.' I told them that the scrolls weren't part of the culture, the Jews were. There were 212,000 Lithuanian Jews who were killed, and their relatives are now coming back to claim their belongings. I told them we weren't moving until the government showed me the rest."

Rabbi Dunner said he found in the library vaults "the most beautiful sifrei Torah and megilos. They didn't compare to any of the 309 we took out in January."

Rabbi Dunner said the head of the library was reluctant to release them, but after three months of negotiations, "we decided to bring pressure from the American Jewish Committee, B'nai Brith International, and the Conference of European Rabbis," three of the groups that made up an adhoc committee formed last July among various representatives of world Jewry, including the Israeli government, Menorah, and Heichal Shlomo.

"Within two months [of the renewed pressure], the 52 sifrei Torah came out," said Dunner. "We left six behind for the Jews of Lithuania. And when this is all over, we're going into the library to check their stacks. There have got to be hundreds of thousands of seforim [religious books] in a country that was recognized before the Shoah as the bedrock of Jewish learning. These books have to come back to their rightful home."


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