Falmouth Synagogue artefact returned to Jewish community after more than a century

Torah ccribe Bernard Bennaroch holding the scroll with Leslie Lipert of Kehillat Kernow and Angela Broome, archivist librarian at The Royal Institution of Cornwall.

Torah ccribe Bernard Bennaroch holding the scroll with Leslie Lipert of Kehillat Kernow and Angela Broome, archivist librarian at The Royal Institution of Cornwall.

First published in News
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A scroll which had 'intrinsic importance' to Jews living in Falmouth has been handed back to the Cornwall's Jewish community after more than a century.

On May 28 the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro returned a 250 year old torah scroll , known as a sefer torah, to Kehillat Kernow, the Jewish Community of Cornwall.

The scroll, which was handed over at the ceremony by the Duke of Gloucester, was one of four that were gifted to the Royal Institution of Cornwall in 1892 by Samuel Jacobs, the last leader of the Falmouth Synagogue congregation.

Torah scrolls are one of the holiest objects in the Jewish religion and Kehillat Kernow made contact with the museum, requesting that the community be allowed to make use of one of the scrolls held in its collection.

In March 2013 the trustees of The Royal Institution of Cornwall, the charity which owns and manages the Royal Cornwall Museum and Courtney Library, approved the return of one of the scrolls, following a formal request from Harvey Kurzfield and Leslie Lipert, respectively chairman and treasurer of Kehillat Kernow, supported by the former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and with advice from the Museums Association Ethics Committee.

Bernard Benarroch, a certified torah scribe who restored the scroll said: “It was an honour to restore this Sefer as I know that it is intrinsically important to the Cornwall community.”

Leslie Lipert said: “The handing over of the scroll at the museum followed by a ceremony at the town hall is a tremendous historic event. It is welcomed by the entire Jewish community in Cornwall as a symbol of continuity of the Jewish community through its original use at the Falmouth Synagogue. We have enjoyed the very thorough and open negotiations with the museum and Courtney Library and it is our hope that this good relationship will continue to grow.”

Museum director Ian Wall said: “This is a tremendous occasion for which I have my predecessor, Hilary Bracegirdle, to thank as she undertook the very thorough and sensitive negotiations for the repatriation. It is a clear signal that The Royal Institution of Cornwall is committed to establishing strong links with communities across Cornwall and in this case the Jewish community. I am delighted that I am here to witness this historic occasion.”

The handing over ceremony was followed by a procession to the town hall and a special dedication service by the Rev Elkan Levy, a past president of the United Synagogue and a past chairman of the Chief Rabbinate Council.

Falmouth had a recognisable Jewish population in the 18th century, and the community built a synagogue on Gyllyng Street in 1806 and established a cemetery at a Ponsharden site, near to the modern Sainsburys supermarket.

The synagogue building remains, although it's use as a place of worship ended in the 1880s, and the cemetery is still tended by members of the Jewish community in Cornwall.

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