Corona del Mar residents Aviva and Fredric Forster stopped by the MST Museum today for a visit during their 4 days in London. The MST is often honoured by visits from North American tourists whose hometown synagogues are guardians of a Czech Scroll. This visit, however, was special.
Fred explained that the trip to London was arranged about 10 months ago. His father was from Ostrava, and was barmitzvahed with a scroll that is probably one of the 15 scrolls from Ostrava in the MST collection. “A visit to the museum was always part of the plan,” he said. What he had not foreseen was that 5 days ago he would have been reading from a Czech scroll as part of his own Bar Mitzvah celebration.
“My parents were secular Jews,” said Fred, “so I was kind of on the outside, looking in.” He explained that Aviva had grown up in a Conservative family, and had even been Bat Mitzvah. She had provided the practical Jewish education for their children, and he was proud to have four Jewish grandchildren. However, upon hearing recently that there was now a date for the first Bat Mitzvah of the next generation, he decided that the time had come for him to come in, and to demonstrate to the grandchildren his belief in Jewish continuity. So Fred studied, and prepared, and last Shabbat he read Parshat Kedoshim at Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot in Irvine, CA. And the scroll from which he read was MST #349 from Litomysl.
It was a joy and a privilege to walk with the Forsters through the story of the Czech Scrolls, and to hear how their story was woven into ours. We know they will return to the community in Irvine with renewed enthusiasm for the role an MST scroll can play l’dor va-dor, across the generations. Mazal tov Fred on your Bar Mitzvah! And kol ha-kovod to all at Shir Ha-Ma’alot for loving and using MST #349 so well.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the MST Museum is open to the public. Usually, visits are pre-arranged, which is a great help with regard to the security of the building. However, on those days we do welcome visitors whose spontaneity has taken them to Kent House rather than Harrods!
This morning the bell rang and two young American women asked to see the scrolls. They were from Los Angeles, but in London as part of a programme run by their universities in the Boston area. As is usual with our guests, I asked what brought them to the MST. “My grandmother’s uncle was Rabbi Reinhart, and my mother said I must visit the scrolls!” was the response.
The young lady had never met the Reinharts, but I had known Mrs Reinhart, and visited her flat many times as a child. Thus, the tour today was slightly different. As we walked through the museum that once was the home of Harold and Flora Reinhart, I was able to add some details of how the rooms had looked previously, and memories of those days.
As our visitors prepared to depart, they seemed quite moved, and noted that they’d learned more than they had expected. It is always an honour that people who’ve travelled so far to visit the great city of London will take time out of their itinerary for the MST museum, and I thanked our guests for stopping by.
It so happens that yesterday in the archives I came across a photograph of Rabbi Reinhart with the scrolls that I’d not seen before …