Rediscovering two Lost Torah Scrolls of Gorizia

Some probably less valuable items belonging to the Jewish community of Gorizia also went missing during the war, such as the documented case of two Torah scrolls on vellum. One of them, written in the 19th century, was incomplete and in bad conditions, while the other, older one was complete and equipped with Torah rollers (Etz Chayim). This Torah scroll contained inscriptions referring to the association Derech Haim (Walk of Life), established by rabbi Abramo Reggio (1784-1855) in Gorizia at the beginning of the 19th century. The fortunes of these two Torah scrolls came to be intertwined in 1961 in the archiepiscopal seminary of Udine. The fragmented Torah scroll had been found during the war by some farmers in Verzegnis, a small mountainous village near Tolmezzo (Carnia), and in 1961 it was given by the local priest to Aldo Moretti (1909-2002), a biblical scholar and professor of theology at the seminary, for an expert evaluation. The other Torah scroll was also in Udine at that time, having fortunously come into Moretti's possession during the war.


Letter from Mario Stock to Steno Donati, 10 July 196
Rome, Centro Bibliografico dell'Unione delle Comunità Ebraiche Italiane: AUCII dal 1934, box 38, folder 8, subfolder Gorizia
© Courtesy of AUCEI

Moretti had played an important role in the partisan movement and was fully aware that both scrolls had been “objects of robbery against the Jews”, but he also knew that the Verzegnis farmers wanted a reward for finding the fragmented one. Therefore, Moretti came to an agreement with the president of the Jewish community of Trieste, Mario Stock (1906-1989), and Stock informed his Gorizia counterpart, Steno Donati (1912-1994), about the arrangement. Moretti returned the most precious Torah scroll to its rightful owner, the Jewish community of Gorizia. Stock, for his part, agreed to compensate the Verzegnis farmers with 15,000 Italian Lire and to donate the fragmented Torah scroll to the seminary of Udine library.