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Royal Cornwall Museum returns rare religious scroll to Falmouth Jewish community

By WBEsme  |  Posted: June 02, 2014

  • Harvey Kurzfield with Pat and Leslie Lipert.

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A RARE and ancient religious scroll has been gifted to Cornwall’s Jewish community by the Royal Cornwall Museum.

The Duke of Gloucester handed over the two hundred year-old Torah scroll to the Falmouth based Kehillat Kernow group at a ceremony in Truro last Wednesday.

It is believed that the scroll was made in Bohemia, what is now the Czech Republic, before being brought to Falmouth in the 18th century.

After a brief spell in London, the scroll has lain dormant in the vaults of Royal Cornwall Museum until Kehillat Kernow started a campaign to get it returned to the community more than 10 years ago.

Kehillat Kernow chairman Harvey Kurzfield said: “To have the Duke of Gloucester down to hand over the scroll was a privilege. It was a fantastic occasion and he seemed so interested in what we were doing.

“It was a very proud moment, everyone there was thrilled and excited – it was very moving.

“This particular scroll is historic as it came from Bohemia and was used in Cornwall 200 years ago and is now going to be used again. It is such a reconnection of the past and the present.

“Royal Cornwall Museum has been fantastic. They have had to go through a certain number of hoops to do it but we are very grateful especially to former director Hilary Bracegirdle and current director Ian Wall.”

The Torah is one of the holiest objects in the Jewish religion and is considered so precious that it cannot be touched.

Instead it is read with the use of a pointer, or yad.

Despite its importance, the scroll, which is written in a particular type of Hebrew with no vowels or punctuation, will be used regularly by the congregation.

Mr Kurzfield added: “It is very very difficult to read. Usually rabbis spend five years training. It is enormously difficult and I am only going to read a few sentences and even that will be a strain.

“It will be used every fortnight and on holy days. The great thing about this particular scroll is that it has been so well refurbished by a scribe in London and he has put it back to working order.

“The original holders, known as atzei chaim, had rotted away so they have been replaced completely, but they have been replaced in such a way that when the scroll is rolled back it isn’t damaged.”

Kehillat Kernow were supported in their bid for the scroll by former chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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