Historic Cornish Sefer Torah to feature on Antiques Roadshow

Reform community's 'most sacred possession' included in episode filmed at the Eden Project as an important faith artefact


A historic Sefer Torah belonging to the small Kehillat Kernow community in Cornwall will be featured in this Sunday’s edition of BBC One’s Antiques Roadshow, filmed at the Eden Project.

The BBC says it has been included as an important artefact from a local faith group.

The scroll was brought to Falmouth from Hamburg in 1740 by Alexander Moses, known as Zender Falmouth. When the community disbanded in 1880, it was offered to Hampstead Synagogue but apparently was returned because it was thought that the restoration costs would be too high.

In 1892, the scroll was presented to the Royal Institution in Cornwall and displayed in the Royal Cornwall Museum until being handed over to the local community nine years ago.
With the parchment torn and every letter needing work, it was painstakingly restored by scribe Bernard Benarroch.

Kehillat Kernow chair Jeremy Jacobson is thrilled by the attention, saying that in his community’s terms, the scroll is priceless.

“It’s our most sacred possession since it connects us to the original Cornish Jewish community. We see it as a never-ending renewal of the past, the continuity of our community here and the positive relevance of the Torah to the future. It’s one of the things that makes Judaism what it is.”

He added that it was “so fitting” to show the scroll at the Eden Project — “a place created out of nothing to build relationships between people and the natural world”.

Legend has it that Jews arrived in Cornwall over a thousand years ago. The county still has towns such as Marazion, which some suggest means “Jewish market” in Cornish. And Penzance has its Market Jew Street. Certainly, Jewish communities were established in the region in the 18th century.

Established in 1999, Kehillat Kernow (Kernow is the ancient term for Cornwall) is the only Jewish community in the county. Associated with the Movement for Reform Judaism, it has 119 members, including 36 children, and holds fortnightly Shabbat services conducted by volunteers and students from Leo Baeck College.

The Antiques Roadshow is at 8 pm on Sunday on BBC One.

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