Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law (1659 ) by the Dutch artist, Rembrandt van Rijn
The film traces the journey of the Torah from the beginning of Torah and the wandering of the Jewish people into Northern Italy and into Bohemia. The story takes us through Habsburg rule, to shtetyl life in Europe, to the intellectual and artistic richness of Prague before WWII, through the near-extinction of the Jewish people. The tale continues with the valiant rescue of 1,564 Torah scrolls after the war, and the long process of restoring them and finding new homes for these orphan scrolls whose congregations were decimated during the Holocaust. We trace the story of one particular Torah, the Polna Torah, and see it find its new home in the Gan Eden (paradise) of Hawai'i.
The town of Polna in the former Czechoslovakia, was where one of the most notable cases of "Blood Libel" occurred. The Hilsner Affair caught the attention of the press throughout Europe.
Emperor Franz Josef, one of the last in a long succession of Habsburg rulers in Bohemia and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire
Nazi invasion of Prague, March 1939
Torah scrolls that survived the Holocaust with varying degrees of damage, were brought to Kent House, Westminster Synagogue, London, to be restored.
Learn more at the Memorial Scrolls Trust.
The Jewish cemetery of Polna
Emperor Napoleon grants emancipation to the Jews
Recurrent waves of antisemitism, pogroms, massacres, and curtailing freedoms mark the history of European Jewry.
Old map of the lands of Bohemia
Abraham Elias Rosenberg presented Hawai'i's King David Kalakaua, with a Torah scroll and a yad (pointer) in the 1880's. The Kalakaua Torah is now at Temple Emanu-El in Honolulu.
Mark Talisman (far right), brought the Polna Torah to Congregation Kona Beth Shalom in 1975.
Sofer (scribe) Rabbi Moshe Druin working painstakingly on the restoration of a Torah scroll. Learn more at Sofer On Site.
Congregants fulfill the 613th mitzvah (commandment): to write a Torah --
with the help of the Sofer (scribe).
"In the beginning, God created heaven and earth" (Genesis 1:1, the first words of the Torah, shown in this close up of the parchment of the Polna Torah)
Torah mantle (cover) handmade by Una Greenaway for the Polna Torah.