David Simkovitz, foreground, holds the crowns in
the courtyard of a synagogue in Georgensgmuend,
Germany. Behind him are historian Birgit Zuge,
Jon Simkovitz, historian Ralf Rossmeissl, Daniel
Simkovitz and Julie Simkovitz.
Simkovitzes using the rimonim is a real joy.
"Every time Julie and I get hagbah and gelikth (lifting
and dressing the Torah after its Shabbat reading) and
we get to put the crowns on, it's a double honor."
The hope is for the crowns to be enjoyed in various
cities where the Weinschenk relatives now live, includ-
ing New York, where Elsie Simkovitz's brother, former
Detroiter Ernest Buehler, is a regular Torah reader in his
"I would be happy to see them used in Detroit," Jon
Simkovitz said of his parents' congregation, Young
Israel of Oak Park, where his father is past president of
one of its predecessors, Young Israel of Oak-Woods.
"Eventually, they will end up in Israel," Elsie
In addition to sons Jon and Daniel, Elsie and Wilbert
Simkovitz have three other children, all living in Israel
with their families.
"We want them to be used by all of them for their
simchahs," Elsie Simkovitz said.
"We are unsure where we will put them in Israel —
we have immediate family in four different cities. But
based on a specific request by Ralf, they will be in use,
not in a museum," Jon Simkovitz said.
the influence of Nazism and remove Nazis from public
life after World War II. To protect himself, the seller
required that payment include a letter falsely stating
that he was not a Nazi.
'After the death of the (buyer), his renters phoned
me last year for buying the Jewish silver and told me
the story," Rossmeissl said.
Public relations manager of the German AWO-Roth-
Schwabach e. V., a large social welfare organization, he
has created projects for the agency's patients to build
detailed models of destroyed synagogues of the region
as a remembrance exhibition.
"To give the ill people back self-confidence with this
qualified work is therapy for them," he.said. "The
models could be therapy for the (non-ill) people who
had lost their remembrance about the Shoah."
Before the crowns were presented to the Simkovitzes,
Rossmeissl contacted an anonymous donor who under-
wrote the cost of refurbishing.
While Torah crowns are often set on shelves of syna-
gogue arks, as historic objects of display, the
Weinschenk crowns are very much in use. They sit atop
a Torah at Jon and Julie Simkovitz's synagogue,
Congregation Beth Ami in Santa Rosa, Calif , where
they have been carried on Shabbat and holidays.
"The first time we used them was at the bar mitzvah
of our dear friends' son. Our kids — Rachel, 7, and
Josh, 3 — put the rimonim on the Torah, and I also
read from the Torah," said Jon Simkovitz, president of
the congregation. "Our kids probably don't fully appre-
ciate the rimonim or the event, but we beamed when
they participated. The thought of future generations of
"Making descendants happy by bringing them back
some robbed roots gives a very good feeling,"
Rossmeissl said. "Especially if these roots will ring for
peace — a ringing of hope — at the top of a Torah."
And on this Simchat Torah, the holiday for rejoicing
in the Torah and celebration of the completion of the
annual cycle of Torah reading, Jon Simkovitz will carry
a Torah topped with the crowns whose bells will ring in
"Simchat Torah is the celebration of the giving of the
Torah that we celebrate from generation to generation,"
Jon Simkovitz said. "(My great-grandmother's) gift is a
direct part of this.
"She also gave a gift — generation to generation —
that we celebrate. Both are gifts that long survive the
original givers and impact future generations."
Jacob Weinschenk perished in the Nazi Germany-run
Thereisienstadt concentration camp, but his wife
Bertha survived the Holocaust and moved to Detroit,
where she died when Jon Simkovitz was 7.
"We did not speak," he said. "I did not know
German. But I remember my Oma well — a thin, old
woman with a warm, beautiful smile. I remember the
numbers on her arm. I know she was in the only train
of Jews that the Red Cross got out of Thereisienstadt.
"That she should give a gift that would impact me
when I was in my 40s and that would impact the rest
of our family, and others, is tremendous."