NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Approximately 30 Holocaust survivors watched as a Torah recovered from Germany was dedicated to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) in late November.
Other guests for the ceremony included Mark Talisman, founding vice chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Council and Memorial Museum, and the Oppenheimer family, who donated the Torah.
"This is the only Holocaust Torah aboard a U.S. vessel," said Talisman. "In 1981, President Reagan spoke of his part in Europe in World War II, and when he saw the concentration camps. 'I was one of the first who saw what happened. And it happened,' President Reagan said to a Holocaust doubter."
The Torah aboard CVN 76 was one of more than a thousand collected in Prague on Hitler's orders. In 1964, the collection was moved to Westminster Synagogue in London, where the restoration process of putting the scrolls back together took more than 35 years.
The Torah is on loan to Ronald Reagan for the next 50 years - the life expectancy of the ship. After that, the Torah will be returned to the Oppenheimer family.
"Because of the existence of USS Ronald Reagan, and because of the hard work of the thousands of Sailors that will serve on her, you will still be free at the end of those 50 years," Capt. James A. Symonds, commanding officer of Ronald Reagan, said to Rabbi Michael A. Oppenheimer's grandchildren, who were in attendance.
"My heart will be with USS Ronald Reagan every Sabbath day, when we are reading the same passages in different places," said Oppenheimer. "Torahs throughout the world are a symbol of Jewish freedom."
"This Torah will be cherished aboard this ship not only as a symbol of religious freedom, but as a symbol of human freedom as well," said Symonds. "The fact that it came from the Holocaust will help remind Sailors that preserving human freedom is very important, and that is something we do everyday."
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76.