Lingle participates in historic Torah's rededication in Kona
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii » A 350-year-old Torah scroll once belonging to a congregation in Polna, Czechoslovakia, was among the more than 1,500 confiscated by the Nazis during World War II. The Nazis rounded up all 93 Jews in the town.
They were never seen again.
Gov. Linda Lingle said last night that she was honored and privileged to attend the rededication of Congregation Kona Beth Shalom's Torah scroll that had been seized by the Nazis.
Lingle penned a letter in the Torah, fulfilling a Jewish duty that she said "will tie me to you forever."
Members of the congregation, under the guidance of Rabbi Moishe Druin, were asked to write in a letter as the final part of the ancient scroll's restoration.
"This is very moving, everything about it," Lingle told the congregation gathered at the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort.
"The story of this Torah alone shows that it survived, that we survived," said Lingle, who is Jewish.
The names and ages of the Czechoslovakian villagers -- between 4 months and 90 years -- were read aloud Tuesday evening as the Torah was passed from member to member toward the front of the room.
Lingle choked up as she spoke of the ongoing bloodshed in the Middle East.
"They are fighting for their lives, their survival today," she said.
The governor said she hoped future generations would not have to read a similar list.
Druin, who spent nine months repairing the document in Miami before returning with it Sunday afternoon, said the calligraphy shows many different influences.
"Tonight we celebrate birth, rebirth and renewal," said Barry Blum, congregation president. "Our guest of honor has ... literally traveled through time and space to be with us."
Barbara Lewis, a member for more than two decades, said she recalls the day the scroll arrived in Kona for the first time.
It arrived in 1985, permanently on loan from Westminster Synagogue in London, where it was taken after being discovered in a Prague museum following World War II.
"This is every bit as exciting," she said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."