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The remarkable History of Kehilat Nashira's Sefer Torah

Manele Spielman in 1929

Manele Spielman was a man who rescued a Sefer Torah on the first night of Kristallnacht. In November 1938, the air was increasingly unbearable. Manele Spielman knew that things would get worse and made a decision that may have put him in danger, and in an even greater danger than being a proud member of the Jewish community in the Mitte district of Berlin in the midst of Nazism – to remove a Sefer Torah from the synagogue and hide it in his home.

Shortly after, on the night of 9 - 10 November, the synagogue burned. Hordes of paramilitaries, including the Hitler Youth and many civilians, set fire to, destroyed synagogues and businesses and murdered Jews. The history is well known. Although he was stateless (he was formerly from Poland and left in 1919) and after

6 years of desperately trying, Manele obtained a visa for the UK. After being arrested and imprisoned in Berlin, he was released and allowed to emigrate. He arrived in England and took up residence at the Kitchener Camp for German Jewish refugees in Sandwich, Kent in February 1939.

The Sefer was used for services in Kitchener until he was able to leave, joined by his wife Deborah and seven-year-old daughter, Elli (who had followed in June 1939). Manele found work in Birmingham as a butler and so the Sefer Torah went with them. It spent time and resided variously at the Central Synagogue, later at Park Road Synagogue and then at the Birmingham Hebrew Hebrew Congregation for the next 60 years. Sadly, Manele died in 1985.

In 2000, Manele’s grandson, Mark Faerber, who was born in England, decided to move the Sefer to his community in Borehamwood, where it has remained ever since. Inscribed in Hebrew and inlaid in ivory at the top of the wooden rollers of the scroll are the words:

“Pesach Kalonymus son of Asher Dov and his son Reb Mordecai”

and the Hebrew date 5638 which equated to 1878 in the Gregorian calendar. This makes it currently 145 years old.

Mark had two mantles (covers) made for it. One blue one for weekly use and one white for the High holidays. On them is embroidered a verse from the Book of Exodus chapter 3 verse 2:

“The Bush burned but was not consumed”

referring to the story of the Burning Bush and the metaphorical allusion to the burning synagogues and this particular Torah, which was not burnt.

In October 2022, in time for the festival of Simchat Torah, Mark travelled with the Sefer Torah to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was the first time since 1939 that it had left the UK. It had been taken there on the personal invitation of Rabbi Shimon Axel Wahnish, the Rabbi of ACILBA, Communidad Israelita Latina de Buenos

Aires – which is one of the first Sephardic Jewish communities in Argentina made up of Jewish immigrants from Morocco.

The rabbi had heard the story of this Sefer from Mark’s son-in-law, Meir Chami (who married Mark’s daughter, Daniella Faerber now living in Buenos Aires with their four children). On hearing about the miraculous survival of this Sefer Torah, the rabbi took great interest and immediately requested that it be brought to Argentina in order to celebrate with it. The rabbi saw divine intervention that the Almighty saved Manele Spielman so that he could preserve and save this Torah. He said that although the history of this Torah was interesting, it was the spiritual importance of what it represented.

When this Torah was read from the Bimah in the shul in Argentina both at the end and at the beginning of the annual Torah reading cycle on Simchat Torah, all the boys of the community were called up and read from it. The young are the future and this Torah represented a link to the past and the triumph of good over the evil that tried to destroy yiddishkeit and our holy Torah values. When Meir took his one-year-old son, Netanel to the bimah at his shul on Simchat Torah on one of the most joyous occasions in the Jewish calendar, he reflected that Netanel was the fifth generation of the family to dance with this Torah. The whole community joined in and it proved a wonderful and moving occasion.

Mark’s daughter, son-in-law and their son in Buenos Aires after Simchat Torah 2022


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