The last time Torah No. 586 was read during services probably was a few days before the Jews from a small town in Czechoslovakia were rounded up and sent to a Nazi concentration camp.

The sacred scroll was one of 1,564 left in Czech synagogues when the people who used them were taken away to die.

But Thursday, the 130-year-old Torah from the town of Lipník nad Becvou will be rededicated at the Martins Run senior living community in Marple Township while a survivor who read from it during his bar mitzvah watches via Skype from the Czech Republic.

"I am very glad that the original Torah from which I read when I was 13 years old is in your hand," Jirik Schreiber, 86, wrote in an e-mail to the Martins Run chaplain, Rabbi Meryl Crean. "It's my pleasure that the Torah has survived and now 'lives' because of you."

The rededication ceremony is part of Martins Run's observance of Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, a time set aside to commemorate the Jews who died during the war and those who resisted the Nazis.

Torah No. 586, which has rarely been used, has been kept in an ark (a special cabinet) at Martins Run since the early 1980s.

The scroll could not be read for religious services because it was not kosher, as not all the letters could be deciphered.

Martins Run's cofounder, Rabbi Theodore Gordon, obtained the scroll on long-term loan from the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust of London in 1983. The trust purchased the 1,564 Torahs from Czechoslovakia's Communist government in 1964.

Long before that, Torah No. 586 was used by the Jewish community in Lipník nad Becvou, a town in the Moravia section of what is now the Czech Republic.

"At least 100 Jews lived there just before World War II," said Susan Boyer, director of the U.S. branch of the trust.

Starting in 1941, Jews in Moravia were deported, leaving the Torah and other liturgical items unattended at the synagogue.

They remained there until several curators of a Jewish museum in Prague persuaded the Nazis to allow them to collect items left at the country's congregations and house them in a vacant synagogue.

After the war, the Communists took over the country. In 1964, the government sold the Torahs for the equivalent of $30,000 to the Westminster Synagogue in London, where they were placed in trust.

Since then, the Torahs have been lent out to synagogues and other institutions around the world.

More than 1,000 are in the United States, more than 300 are in other countries, and 200 are in a museum at the Westminster Synagogue. About 50 are in Pennsylvania and at least 75 are in New Jersey. (Each has a brass plaque with its number on it.)

In Pennsylvania, Temple Sinai in Dresher and Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park are among the institutions that have one of the rescued Torahs, according Boyer. In New Jersey, Congregation M'kor Shalom in Cherry Hill and Congregation B'nai Tikvah-Beth Israel in Washington Township also have them, Boyer said.

In 2008, Crean attended a local workshop led by a representative of the trust. Officials were concerned that Torahs were being lost as synagogue leadership changed, or congregations merged or closed.

"Some are gone because people didn't know [about the scrolls] and just sold them off," Boyer said. All are supposed to be returned to the trust.

At the workshop, Crean said, she realized that she "had an obligation to do something with this Torah."

She contacted a Jewish scribe to restore Torah No. 586, with its missing letters and pieces of parchment.

The task was complicated by the scroll's unique lettering, a combination of scripts from several Jewish traditions that is extremely rare, said Rabbi Gedaliah Druin, 73, the Miami scribe who restored the scroll.

Druin filled in missing letters with a special quill pen and special ink, making Torah No. 586 kosher again.

"To me it's a miracle," said Sima Radovitz, 85, a Martins Run resident who as a teenager worked in a Siberian military camp during World War II. "[Religious items] were destroyed during the war and this one survived. Just like some people survived, and six million didn't."

On Thursday, Radovitz will be part of an expected group of about 250 from around Delaware County who will watch the ceremony along with Schreiber, a chemist who with his father survived three concentration camps.

Michael Shaid, a senior at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Radnor Township, will read from the sacred scroll as a gesture of "giving the Torah to a new generation," Crean said.

The rabbi will begin reading from the scroll for religious services starting in the fall.

"This is an example of a living Torah," Crean said. "It's not just a document stored somewhere. Each generation encounters the text anew, and that keeps it alive."

Contact Kristin E. Holmes
at 610-313-8211 or kholmes@phillynews.com.