Our Torahs

The Penn Torah Scroll


 The Penn Torah photos copyright 2012 by Erwin Huebner  

Not every young artist dreams of becoming a Torah scribe, but the late Irma Penn did. After 40 years, Irma fulfilled her lifelong ambition to become a Soferet and created the first Torah scribed by a Canadian woman. It was dedicated at a special ceremony which was held at Temple Shalom in Winnipeg on Shavuot, 5772, (May 27th, 2012.)

Irma was a valued member of Temple Shalom. Irma Penn, studied to be a soferet STaM, learning the practices of writing script for sacred texts in the Mea Shearim district of Jerusalem in Israel. She wrote several Megillot Esther, (the story of Purim,) as well as the Holocaust Scroll in both Hebrew and English which was read for the first time at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. She also wrote the strips for a set of tefillen.

 Irma was selected to participate with five other women, scribes from around the world, in writing the first Torah scroll ever created by women, for a congregation in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. She was an artist, a former archivist with the Jewish Heritage Centre in Winnipeg, a poet, calligrapher, teacher and genealogist.

The Winnipeg Jewish community had the unique opportunity of participating in the completion of a Torah, by the mitzvah of helping Irma to write the letters on the final page of the scrolls which were then woven together. It is said that to help write one letter is as if you had written the whole Torah. You can still be part of this amazing project.

You can make donations celebrating members of your family, a simcha, the memory of loved ones, an anniversary, b’mitzvah or other life cycle event. You can make donations on your own or with a group. Look for more information on our website: http://www.templeshalomwinnipeg.ca

For further information please email tshalom1@gmail.com

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The Community of Moravska-Ostrava,

Home of Temple Shalom’s Holocaust Scroll

OSTRAVA (until 1929 Moravska-Ostrava; in German, Maehrisch-Ostrau) is a city in N. Moravia, Czech Republic; after Prague and Brno it was the third largest Jewish community in Czechoslovakia between the two world wars.

Jews were prohibited from living in the town in the Middle Ages. In 1508 the local lord permitted one Jew to settle, against the wishes of the town. Other Jews followed, resulting in an expulsion order of 1531, although it was only partly carried out. Later, Jews mainly from Osoblaha (Hotzenplotz) did business in Ostrava. In 1786 the municipality leased its distillery to a Jew. Other Jews subsequently arrived, and in 1832 a minyan was organized. When in 1837 the city council was in session deciding on whether to grant a Jew the right of sojourn; riots broke out, and the council did not dare to decide in the affirmative. Nevertheless, a Kultusverein was organized in 1860 under the guidance of the Teschen community. A cemetery was consecrated in 1872, and a community authorized in 1875; it then numbered 58 persons. The Jewish population was divided between the different parts of the city; Polnisch-Ostrau (after 1918, Slezska Ostrava), which was then under Silesian administration, and Maehrisch-Ostrau, under Moravian administration. After a prolonged conflict over the locations of community’s institutions, Maehrisch-Ostrau became the center.

In 1879 the main synagogue was consecrated. A year later there were 1,077 Jews in Ostrava, but by 1900 the number had increased to about 5,000; and in the census of 1930, 7,189 Jews. In 1937 the Jewish population was around 10,000, making Ostrava the third largest Jewish community in Czech-speaking lands. On the eve of World War II there was a wave of emigration to Eretz Israel. Several leaders of the Czechoslovak Zionist movement who resided in Ostrava, like Joseph Rufeisen and Paul Maerz, also left. 

Immediately after the German occupation, the Jewish old-age home was confiscated; and most of the synagogues in the city and in the suburbs of Vitk, Privoz, Hrusov and Zabreh were set on fire. On Oct. 17, 1939, about 1,200 Jews were transferred to Zarzecze, where a forced-labour camp, Nisko nad Lanem, had been erected; the Ostrava community was forced to supply the materials for the building of this camp, which was known as Zentralstelle fuer juedische Umsiedlung (“Central Office for Jewish Resettlement”). The Nisko camp was part of a projected plan to create a Jewish reservation in Poland, but it was soon abandoned.

Prior to abandoning that plan, on 17 October 1939, the first transport of Jews to a camp under the Nisko Plan and the Nazi administrative innovation known as the General Government took place in Ostrava – the first of its kind in Europe.The mayor of Ostrava Josef Hinner opposed the deportation with the magistrate and German forces; he started to organize the resistance to smuggle Jewish citizens from the city and surrounding areas. Due to his opposition, Mayor Hinner was deported and placed in a concentration camp. He barely survived World War II.

In March 1940, 600 Jews were driven over the border into Poland; another 500 were returned to Ostrava. Many of those driven east survived the war while those who remained, 3,903 in 1941, were subjected to deportations. Between September 17 and 29, 1942; 2,582 Jews were deported in three transports. In all, a total of 3,567 Jews were deported from Ostrava; only 253 survived.

A memorial commemorating the Jewish inhabitants of Ostrava who became victims of the Holocaust was built in Milada Horáková Park

 The Story of the Torah Scrolls of Czechoslovakia