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Holocaust Torah Dedicated, Now on Display in Special Collections

Department News

On Thursday, Holocaust Torah No. 1518, held by University of Houston Special Collections, was dedicated in a ceremony that included a speech by Holocaust survivor and UH alumna Celina Fein.

Celina Fein

Celina Fein, a Polish Jew, survived the Holocaust by obtaining false papers with the help of her older sister and working for a family in Germany under the identity of a Christian. After the war’s end, she moved to the United States with her aunt, who had survived the Holocaust with her, and began speaking to groups about her experience. At the age of 71, she earned a B.A. in English from UH.

The Torah was recently placed in a specially-designed Plexiglas case and is now on permanent display in the Special Collections Reading Room. The case was commissioned by UH faculty, alumni, students from the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and the Houston Jewish community.

UH has held the Torah, the holiest book in Judaism, since 1976, when it was obtained on behalf of the student body with the help of UH faculty and the Houston Jewish community. Instrumental in bringing the Torah to UH was English professor Irving Rothman. In 2012, Rothman began the effort to commission the display case.

The Torah is said to have been brought during World War II from its community to the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague and is held under the protection of UH in agreement with the Memorial Scrolls Trust of the Westminster Synagogue of London, which gathered the Holocaust Torahs after World War II and repaired the scrolls for safekeeping.  The Torah is not a printed document, but a scroll of 80 panels of parchment sewn together with animal sinew, constructed by highly qualified scribes through a painstaking, careful method. The scroll includes the five books of Moses.

To hear Rothman and Rabbi Kenny Weiss, executive director of the Houston Hillel and adjunct faculty in the UH department of religious studies, speak about the scroll, take a look at this short video.

The public is welcome to view the Torah during the Reading Room’s regular hours. For more information about the history of the scroll, visit UH News.

*Editor’s note: The original text of this post has been updated to better reflect the Torah’s history.

One thought on “Holocaust Torah Dedicated, Now on Display in Special Collections

  1. A grand thing for the University to play a role in preserving a foundation document of Western civilization.

    Nora Klein, M.D.