200-year old Torah leaves Bay Area, returns home to Czech Republic

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A Peninsula synagogue, which restored a 200-year-old Torah that had been seized by the Nazis during World War II, is returning to its original home in the Czech Republic. It left from San Francisco International Airport Tuesday.

A Peninsula synagogue, which restored a 200-year-old Torah that had been seized by the Nazis during World War II, is returning to its original home in the Czech Republic. It left from San Francisco International Airport Tuesday.

VIDEO: Torah travels, leaves Foster City for Czech Republic
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A Peninsula synagogue, which restored a 200-year-old Torah that had been seized by the Nazis during World War II, is returning to its original home in the Czech Republic. It left from San Francisco International Airport Tuesday.


The Torah was not able to go through an X-Ray, but it was allowed to go through after a personal screening.

In fact, the sacred Hebrew bible received the VIP treatment.

The Torah has been at the Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City since 1970. It came from a synagogue from a village called Olomouc in the Czech Republic where Jews were murdered by the Nazis during WWII. Their ritual artifacts were confiscated or destroyed, but the Torah survived after the war and made its way to the Westminster Synagogue in London.

From there, it traveled to the synagogue in Foster City.

Today, in Olomouc, the Jewish community there has rebuilt itself.

"They asked us if we could help restore this scroll to kosher status and bring it back to its home," said Rabbi Core Helfand of the Peninsula Sinai Congregation. "So it's a beautiful journey."

For Cantor Doron Shapira, all of this is an incredible coincidence. His wife's parents fled from Olmouc. This was their synagogue's Torah. "I, as this suburban cantor in the Bay Area have read it myself for twenty-something years never knowing that."

The Torah still needs some restoring, something that will be done in its new home during a ceremony Sunday. In the meantime, its journey will be a comfortable one.

"Customer service was nice enough to reserve its own seat for the Torah," said United Airlines employee and synagogue member Michael Hayat.

NOTE: Olomouc is no longer a village, but a city with 100,000 residents.

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