Ancient Torah Scroll Discovered in Poland

Historical Scroll Believed to Be Once Owned by Famed Rabbinical Dynasty

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A world class scroll of the Torah, most probably from the famous dynasty of the rabbis of Kotzk (Poland), of which the founder was cited by the Pope Francis (Lumen Fidei, 13) was discovered in a high school library. It was preserved thanks to the courageous Poles in the area.

Upon his retirement in 1991, Zygmunt Kaminski, teacher at the high school in Sokolow Podlaski and collector of antiques, gave his school a part of his collection, which included a certain parts of the Torah (five first books of the Bible). The Torah was placed in a special library shelf. It is unknown when Mr. Kaminski became an owner of this scroll. Only at the end of last year, during the renovation of the library, did the treasure come to light. The director of the high school, Marcin Celinski, saw at first glance that it was a part of the Torah and decided to seek further consultation. Two weeks ago, Dr. Eleonora Bergman, from the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, confirmed that it is part of the Torah written in a very rare kind of calligraphy, which needs further study.

After a program on Radio Maria about the Chapel of Remembrance, where – like in Yad Vashem – the names of the Poles who saved the Jews will be on the wall, Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, Oxford graduate, professor of Scripture at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, was asked to consult the Torah. He concluded that this scroll contains a part of the book of Genesis (Gen 1:1-28,6). Moreover, he proposed to consider the question as to whether this is a Torah that was used in the local synagogue in Sokolow Podlaski. If this is so, as some circumstances suggest, it is most probably the Torah studied by (or owned by) Rabbi Yitzchak Zelig Morgenstern (1866-1939), who comes from one of the most famous rabbinic dynasties (that of Kotzk). His direct ancestor was Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, known in the world as a founder of the Kotzk Hasidic movement.

This unique Torah is a world class treasure for the Jewish culture and religion. At the same time it has an educational scope, as a witness of the centuries of Jewish and Polish friendly coexistence in Poland. And this scroll was preserved thanks to some courageous Poles, who wanted to preserve a masterpiece of Jewish history.

On the Net:

The gallery of pictures of this Torah can be found on the website of the Catholic newspaper Niedziela:

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Paweł Rytel-Andrianik

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