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Our Sefer Torah from Ukraine

On Simchas Torah 2019, we experienced an emotional Hachnosas Sefer Toirah and this is the story behind it.

On Shabbos chol hamoed, the Rov of Young Israel of Netanya Rabbi Boruch Boudilovsky, told the following the story.

The main shul in Chechelnik, Ukraine was built sometime in the 1700s. The shul was closed in the 1930s because of the hostile regime against the Jews. Minyanim were then held in private homes and the Sifrei Torah were distributed to the private homes where the minyanim were being held.

The shul building was then used as a furniture warehouse and a school during different periods following to the closure of the shul.

During World War 2, one of the Sifrei Torah being held by one of the Jews was stolen by a gentile to use as a covering for the roof of his home. The local Jews decided to bury the Sifrei Torah in order to protect them.

After the war, the Sefer was unburied and secretly held by a local Jew until the 1980s. This Jew was a Shochet and knew how to perform Bris Millah. After he passed away, the Sefer was secretly handed over from one local Jewish resident to another. These Jews came from a generation who were not frum and could not tell the difference between an Alef and a Beis but nevertheless appreciated the value of a Sefer Torah which they inherited from previous generations.

In 1988, Mr Bershadsky left Chechelnik and moved to America. It was forbidden to legally take the Sefer Torah with him because there is a Russian Soviet law which forbade taking objects over 100 years old out of Russia. Mr Bershadsky travelled to Moscow to bribe authorities to confirm that the Sefer was not yet 100 years old. After successfully obtaining the desired documents, the Sefer Torah was taken to Atlanta with the Bershadsky family.

In Atlanta, the Sefer remained in their home since the late 1980s. In approximately 2018, the family heard that their cousin Alexander Shnaitman was going to Eretz Yisroel and they wanted that the Sefer Torah should go home to a Aron Hakodesh in Eretz Yisroel and asked Alexander to take the Sefer to Eretz Yisroel and find it a suitable home.

In Ellul 2019, Alexander Shnaitman searched names of a Rabbi that he could identify with. Being a Russian sounding name he called Rabbi Boudilovsky from Young Israel of North Netanya and asked if he would accept the Sefer. The Sefer was brought to the shul. On Simchas Torah 2019, we began the joyous day of Torah celebration by conducting a Hachnosas Sefer Torah for this old sefer from Chechelnik. Before Maariv of Simchas Torah, the community including my father went outside and sang and danced under a Tallis whilst the Sefer Torah was carried into the shul. All the existing Sifrei Torah of the shul were taken out to greet the old Sefer Torah that was now new in the shul. This Sefer Torah was not danced with on Simchas Torah for almost 100 years!

Rabbi Boudilovsky added in his drasha that it is not just enough to want to dance and rejoice with the Torah, but one must also keep the Torah and that is the purpose of Simchas Torah.


Written by Miri , a Secondary school pupil in London

Sat, 13 July 2024 7 Tammuz 5784