(photo credit: KNESSET)
Former Knesset speaker and interim president Dalia Itzik accepted an invitation Wednesday to serve as honorary chairwoman of From the Depths, an organization that aims to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and to continue the message of survivors to the next generations.
From the Depth was set up by executive director Jonny Daniels and other descendants of Holocaust survivors to ensure that the memories of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents lives on. Itzik’s role will be to help open doors and raise awareness.
She said that after she campaigned to help Holocaust survivors in the Knesset, she accepted From the Depth’s invitation because the issue is so important to her.
“I want to make sure the new generations understand the nature of the Holocaust,” she said. “I am afraid that it was so monstrous that people will deny it. The fact that From the Depths is being run by young people who are literally digging into the dirt impressed me.”
Six months ago, students from the University of Warsaw, volunteering with From The Depths’ Matzeva Project, were searching for tombstones stolen from Jewish cemeteries that were used for construction when they made a remarkable discovery. A Polish shepherd who heard about the organization’s quest shared his story with them.
He was five years old at the outbreak of the war, and his neighbor was the rabbi of the tiny city of Filipow, in which lived 800 Poles and 800 Jews.
One day the Jews were suddenly being rounded up and the rabbi was able to run to his neighbor with one simple request: to keep the community’s Torah scroll until either he returned or another Jew came to collect it.
The scroll sat under the sofa of this family for more than 70 years, but the family used more than half of its parchment for such things as cleaning the house and their horse stable.
The students asked if he would be willing to give the scroll to Daniels.
The man became incredibly emotional and said immediately that Daniels must have been the person the rabbi was referring to, and he gave it to him.
Daniels saw the Torah scroll as a survivor of the Holocaust. He vowed to do everything in his power to have the scroll restored.
“We are embarking on a mission to complete this Torah scroll, however, in a rather unique way: The only people writing the holy letters will be Holocaust survivors themselves,” Daniels said.
“The scribe has outlined the letters and the survivors will fill them in.
This Torah doesn’t belong to me, nor anyone. It belongs to Klal Yisrael [all Jews], and I want to make sure that every survivor still living, wherever they may be around the world, have the opportunity to take part in bringing it back to life.”
From the Depths held its inaugural event with the scroll in London, which was hosted by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government MP Eric Pickles. Survivors were invited from all over the UK.
From the Depths is looking to partner with Jewish communities wherever they may be, to host the Torah for a Shabbat in their synagogue and during the week to honor survivors by writing the letters in the scroll.
They are also in final stages of discussion with US Vice President Joe Biden’s office, about the US government hosting a similar event at the White House.
“With unfortunately survivors passing away at such a high rate, we have to stand and become witnesses of the witnesses and through artifacts such as these we will be able to carry on the message to the next generations,” Daniels said.