In 2007, the High School senior class of The Leffell School (then known as Solomon Schechter School of Westchester) was in Poland as part of their Lev v’Nefesh experience when members of the class noticed a disturbing sight in the window of a locked antiques store — an abandoned Torah, uncovered and upside down. The students reported their discovery to Head of School Dr. Elliot Spiegel and Rabbi-in-Residence Harry Pell, who returned to the store the next day and began negotiations with the store owner, eventually coming to terms for the school to purchase the sacred scroll.
The rescue of the Torah from Poland was an uplifting moment for the students, who had spent a week in Poland learning about the atrocities of the Shoah (Holocaust) and visiting such infamous sites as Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibor, the Krakow ghetto, and several empty synagogues whose congregants were lost to the war. The occasion was made even more fortuitous when the students realized that the Torah happened to be open to that week’s reading of parashat Yitro, about the giving of the Ten Commandments. The rescued Torah traveled with the senior class from Poland to Israel, where they were to spend two months. Students eagerly read from the Torah during their first Shabbat in Jerusalem, bringing new life to the previously abandoned scroll. The school engaged Rabbi Zerach Greenfield, a Jerusalem-based sofer (scribe) and expert in the restoration of scrolls, who led the meticulous work necessary to repair the Torah and return it to kosher condition. Based on the quality of the parchment and size of the letters, Rabbi Greenfield concluded the scroll likely dated from the early 1920s and originated in Romania. How it made its way to a Warsaw antique shop is unknown. The Torah now resides in Hartsdale at the Upper School campus of The Leffell School, a gift of the Class of 2007. This survivor of the Shoah is now read regularly on Mondays and Thursdays by the young students of Leffell, a testament to the enduring strength and resilience of the Jewish people.
To learn more about the Torah Rescued from Poland, you can read the following newspaper articles:
- Jewish Telegraph Agency, January 19, 2007, The Torah in the Window
- New York Times, March 4, 2007, A Torah in Warsaw Just Asking to be Adopted
- New York Times, January 20, 2008, Abandoned Torah, Adapted, Is Revived