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A reminder of the Jewish community in Brzostek

Sydney Jewish Museum

Sydney Jewish Museum
Darlinghurst, Australia

A Torah scroll, in Hebrew Sefer Torah, is a handwritten copy of the Torah, meaning: of the Pentateuch, or the five books of Moses (the first books of the Hebrew Bible). The Torah scroll is mainly used in the ritual of Torah reading during Jewish prayers. At other times, it is stored in the holiest spot within a synagogue, the ark, which is usually an ornate curtained-off cabinet built along the wall that most closely faces Jerusalem, the direction Jews face when praying.

This Sefer Torah came from the synagogue in Brzostek, a small village in the Carpathian Mountains in the south of Poland. In 1939, the town had a population of between 450-500 Jews, approximately one-third of the population, estimated at around 40 Jewish families.

The first wooden house of prayer was established in the mid-19th century. In the early 20th century, a brick synagogue was built on its site. During World War II, the synagogue and its contents were destroyed by the Germans. The scroll was rescued by a non-Jewish resident of the town who gave it to Avraham Leib Szus when he returned to his village in 1946 to discover that only four Jews had survived and that his family had been brutally murdered. Avraham brought it to Australia when he immigrated in 1959 and wished to find a new home for it among the Jews, "to serve as a reminder of his people’s past in Poland."

There is now no Jewish population left in Brzostek. The synagogue, deserted for many years, has been turned into a primary school.

Details

  • Title: A reminder of the Jewish community in Brzostek
  • Location Created: Poland
  • Type: Torah scrolls
  • Rights: Sydney Jewish Museum
  • Medium: parchment

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