Czech Ambassador visits Northwood shul for launch of book about history of twinned town

New publication details how a once-thriving community in Kolin - where the Slovak Torah scrolls originated - was decimated by the Nazis


Czech Ambassador Marie Chatardova visited The Ark Synagogue in Northwood for a special service and the launch of a book about the congregation’s twinned Czech town.

The book — Years of Sorrow and Hardship: Remembering the Fates of the Kolin Jews during the Holocaust — details how a once-thriving community was decimated by the Nazis.

For more than 40 years, The Ark has held a memorial Shabbat in honour of the Jews murdered from the towns where the congregation’s Czech and Slovak Torah scrolls originated.

This year, the focus was on Kolín and the new book, produced by the town’s museum, tells its story through the words of the small number of survivors.

Kolín residents including the Mayor, Michael Kaspar, and the book’s authors, Ladislav and Mirka Jouza, joined the service online.

The envoy, who was accompanied by her husband Benoit Chatard, thanked members of the Progressive community “for all the work you have done to keep alive the memory of the Jews of Kolín and for building friendship between our country and your congregation”.

She was given a tour of the synagogue by rabbis Aaron and Andrew Goldstein, viewing the Czech and Slovak scrolls. The Ark (then known as Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue) received its first scroll in 1965.

Addressing the congregation, Rabbi Andrew Goldstein spoke fondly about a Kolín survivor, Erna Meissner, who often used to attend the shul’s memorial services.

In all, she survived ten concentration and work camps before coming to England. Returning to Prague in later life, she survived Covid in her care home, reaching her 100th birthday before her death in 2021.

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