Ner HaTamid from Tarnow was returned to Jewish hands by a local Pole .
(photo credit: SHEM OLAM)
For 73 years, the only known physical evidence of the once-thriving Jewish life in the Polish city of Tarnow was the bima (stage on which Jewish worshipers read the Torah) that survived after the Germans looted and burned the synagogue down, bringing to an end a Jewish community that thrived since the 15th century and included one half of Tarnow’s residents.
And then Rabbi Avraham Kriger, from the Shem Olam Faith and Holocaust Institute, received a phone call.
On the other end was a Polish resident of Tarnow with news: During the years of German occupation, his father accumulated various Jewish artifacts, including the ner tamid (the sanctuary lamp that burns constantly) that hung in the now-demolished synagogue.
The function of the lamp in synagogues is to serve as a reminder of the eternal light in the Temple that stood in Jerusalem.
The lamp was not made from any precious metals, and so it was discarded by the Germans. The Polish man asked Rabbi Kriger if perhaps Shem Olam and the Jewish community would like to have it back.
Many Jewish objects were taken by non-Jews during the German occupation of Poland.
With the collapse of socialist Poland and the creation of the new Polish democracy, the new administration returned publicly owned Jewish assets, such as houses of prayer, graveyards and bath houses, to current Jewish communities. Likewise, many Poles also returned Jewish items to the newly opened Polin Museum
to be displayed.
Noting that “most among those who have such items trade them in or horde them” and don’t return them to Jewish hands, Kriger stressed how unique it is to have had the chance to bring such a historical Jewish item to Israel.
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