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Israel Presents 4 Torahs to New York City, Will Be Given to Burned-out Synagogues

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Four Sifrei Torah donated by the Israel Government to two New York synagogues that were vandalized and burned recently were presented to the rabbis of the congregations in an informal ceremony at the Israel Consulate today. Receiving them were Rabbi Meilech Silber of the Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, which was severely damaged by fire Nov. 27 and Rabbi Isaac Liebes of Congregation Toirei Zonov in The Bronx, which was destroyed by a fire earlier. The presentation was made by Consul General Rehaveam Amir and Consul Zvi Caspi in the presence of three City Hall officials representing Mayor John V. Lindsay, who is on vacation. Mr. Caspi said that the Torahs will be formally installed in their respective congregations at a date to be set when the damage is repaired. He said the Israel Government would be represented. The Torahs were property of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Jerusalem. They are among the 1,000 Sifrei Torah that the Ministry has been collecting all over Europe. They belonged to Jewish communities that no longer exist. The Torahs donated to the New York congregations originated in Romania. Mr. Caspi said they were very old but would not venture a guess about their age. Mayor Lindsay took the initiative to help the vandalized synagogues replace their destroyed sacred scrolls. After inspecting the gutted premises he phoned Consul General Amir to ask for help. The Israel Government responded immediately.

Bronx District Attorney Burton B. Roberts told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that he has learned from a fire marshal that three fires occurred in Jewish schools and synagogues in his borough between June 1 and Dec. 2, 1968 that were of suspicious origin. He said that in the same period, six fires were reported in religious institutions in Brooklyn — two of them Jewish – and the others in churches of various denominations. He said not all were suspicious. Mr. Roberts would not give the names or addresses of the synagogues where fires had occurred, but he stressed that all of the information available to him indicated that there was no “conspiratorial pattern” behind the blazes. He attributed fires under suspicion to “juvenile exhibitionists” or “psychotics.”

Rabbi Bernard Goldenberg, director of school organizations and professional services of Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, informed JTA of measures being taken to protect Jewish schools against fires and vandalism. He said Fire Commissioner Robert Lowery was given a list of all affiliated schools and promised that Fire Department representatives will visit them and alert the principals to spot suspicious persons or packages on their premises. He said Torah Umesorah has also urged all day schools in the city to keep lights burning through the night and to organize parent patrols to watch for vandals. He said that through Mayor Lindsay’s office his organization was trying to get city agencies to help yeshivas relocate some of their students until damaged classrooms can be repaired. The American Jewish Congress today gave emergency $500 grants to the Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway and Yeshiva Sharei Zedek of Coney Island, also hit by fire, “to enable education to proceed.”

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