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In memory of Solly Patrontasch

We were greatly saddened when we heard of the untimely death of Solly who fought for his life like a tiger for so many years. Read more

The Salvaged Torah Scroll

By: Yosef Tzvi Buber, told by Michael Melman. Read more

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The Salvaged Torah Scroll

By: Yosef Tzvi Buber, told by Michael Melman

Upon their entrance to Zolkiev,the Germans burnt down the famous and historical Great Synagogue with its hundreds of Torah books. It was built in the 17th century, with the assistance of King Jan Sobietski. The Synagogue - one of the most beautifulsynagogues in Poland and even in the worldwas very significant architecturally.

It was builtas a fortress (during the period of the war of the Tatars). In the interior, each wall had three tall windows.The synagogue had a round ceiling supported by pillars 13 meters high, all positioned in its center.

In the exterior, big stakes supported the main structure of the building. Around the roof, above the main cornice adorning the building blockswas a kind of antique-like Renaissance style ornament liningits length looking likebarricades. At the two corners of the front of the building there were small towers. The Synagogue was the glory of the Jewish community, and its members were very proud of it. Other synagogues and study halls hadn't acquired such glory.
In that same period, one of the city's honored members, Rabbi Josef Lauterfacht - Melman, had risked his life and salvaged one of the Torah scrolls of the “Zidichov Kloise”. The Torah scroll had been hidden in thehouses of a wagoner called Yosele P.

With the Nazi takeover of the city, the city was divided to quarters and movement of Jews between the quarters was forbidden, along with a general curfew imposed after sunset.Consequently,on the High Holydays, the Jews residing in the Lvovian suburb were unable to go and pray in the synagogues which were located in the city's center. Thus they decided to enter into one of the residential homes and pray there inminyan, but it didn’t have a Torahscroll available. Without consulting anyone, Josef Lauterfacht – Melman volunteered to help them, and one night before Rosh Hashana, herisked his life again,arrivingthrough side ways to the home of Joseph P., wrapped the Torah Scroll that he hid thereearlierin his Tallit, and set off back home. However, in one of the alleys he ran across a group of Germans sitting in the company of women. Shocked, Rabbi Yosef stoodbaffled. Turning back was not possible because the Gestapo was in his way. Being courageous and confident, he decided to rely on a miracle and continued along his way.Indeed the miracle happened, and he went right past the Germans while holding the Torah scroll in his hands, pretending to be invisible. He arrived home safely. And so, those Jews prayed in the High Holydays inaminyan with a Torah.

After Sukkot (22nd of November, 1942) the Gestapo started an Action against the city Jews. This time, approximately three thousand Jews were imprisoned by them in the Sobietski castle in order to be sent to the crematoriums at Belzec. The Nazis ordered the prisoners to kneel with their hands raised up all night, and anyone who dared to stand up would be killed immediately. Among those detained was Rabbi Yosef. He whispered to the people standing beside him that it is better to stand up and be killed on the spot and be buried in Jewish burial than be led to the crematorium in Belzec, and that is what finally happened to him.

In the home of Michael Melman (son of the holy Rabbi Joseph Melman), a bunker was built, where his family hid with a few of his neighboring families. Between the boards of the roof in the attic of the house, Michael Melman hid the Torah scroll salvaged by his father.The rooms of the house were handed over to a folksdeutsche named Beck to live in.He gave shelter to the Jews in the bunker.

One day, a fire broke out in that same suburb. Twenty houses were burnt downin front of the Melman's house and a few houses behind were burned. The house also starting burning, the fire started catching the doors, the windows and the roof. When the fire reached the Torah's hiding place, the fire ceased and the book fell on the floor of the attic. Beck, who lived in the house, walked upstairs to see what had happened. Seeing the Torah, he was amazed, since he did not know the nature of this object. He called his wife (in the past, she had been working for the Melman family) and she cried out in fear: "This is a Torah that is holy for the Jews. There is no doubt this is what saved our house". During the fire Beck urged the bunker members to leave, as he was afraid that the house would burn over them and when their burnt bodies would be discovered,their hiding in his house would be revealed. However, after he got convinced that the fire ceased in virtue of the Torah he let them stay, and so they survived.

With the defeat of the Germans and their escape from the city, eighteen people left the bunker, after staying there twenty two months. Their joy was double as they had with them the only Torah scroll saved out of hundreds of Torah books burnt. Out of the eight thousand Jews who lived in the city and its surrounding areas, forty two people had survived, among them the eighteen who left the bunker.

Subsequently Michael Melman and his family left the city, and wandered as far as Australia, carrying with him the salvaged Torah scroll. After he immigrated to Israel, he settled in Ramat Gan and was praying in a Chabad synagogue.

On September 21,1959 Michael Melman brought the Torah scrollinto the Chabad Synagogue in a dignified and glorious ceremony, happy that the book has finally arrived to the proper abode.

Indeed the Chazal saying: "Everything depends on luck, even the Torah scroll in the Sanctuary" occurred.
 
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