Scrolls returned after 132 years

The sefer Torah is piped through the streets on its return to the Cornish Jewish community

The sefer Torah is piped through the streets on its return to the Cornish Jewish community

An historic sefer Torah kept in a Cornwall museum for well over a century has been returned to the Jewish community.

Having been held in Truro’s Royal Cornwall Museum since Falmouth Synagogue closed in 1882, the scroll was restored by scribe Bernard Benarroch and handed back to the Kehillat Kernow community’s chairman, Harvey Kurzfield, by the Duke of Gloucester on behalf of the museum.

Former director of the Office of Small Communities Rev Elkan Levy, who travelled from Israel for the ceremony, was “not aware of any other sefer out of use for over 100 years being made kosher again and brought back into use”.

The scroll was one of four used in the Falmouth shul which was built in 1806. When it closed due to the dwindling membership, the sifrei Torah were gifted to the Royal Institution of Cornwall by the widow of Samuel Jacobs, the shul’s last leader, to be kept at the museum. But after a request from Kehillat Kernow last year, its return was approved.

Museum director Ian Wall said: “This repatriation, the result of thorough and sensitive negotiations, is a clear signal that the Royal Institute is committed to establishing strong links with the Jewish community.”

After the ceremony, Mr Kurzfield carried the scroll under a tallit in procession through the local streets to City Hall.

Mr Levy then led a dedication service, explaining its history, which dated back to Prague in 1650. Guests at the ceremony included Truro MP Sarah Newton.

The dedication coincided with the launch of a book, The Jews of Cornwall, by Leslie Pearce, a local historian who is custodian of the 250-year-old Penzance Jewish cemetery, which is undergoing restoration under the aegis of the Board of Deputies.

Mr Pearce, an associate member of Kehillat Kernow, said: “As someone from a Christian background, I always wanted to show solidarity and respect for the Jewish people. The 15 years of work on this book have been focused on preserving the memory of Cornish Jews.”

Kehillat Kernow, which has a membership of more than 50 families from throughout Cornwall, has sponsored the 688-page book.

Last updated: 9:45am, June 9 2014