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Police Probing Thefts from Philadelphia Area Synagogues

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– Police are investigating two burglaries and thefts of silver Torah ornaments from two area synagogues, Temple Adath Israel of the Main Line in Merion and Temple Sholom in the city’s Northeast, within the last three weeks, according to Associate Editor Robert Cohen in tomorrow’s issue of the Jewish Exponent.

A third apparent burglary attempt was foiled at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood when intruders set off an alarm and fled. Police responding to the alarm apprehended a man in a car who police believe was the pick-up man for the burglary team, according to a police source. The rash of break-ins follow a long string of similar events here in late summer.

Silver Torah crowns, breastplates and pointers were reported stolen in the early morning hours of Dec. 29 from Temple Adath Israel. According to police, the burglary was discovered by a maintenance man who found a basement window pried open, apparently where entrance to the building had been gained.

One week later, on the morning of Jan. 6, silver Torah ornaments were stolen from the ark of Temple Sholom. The theft was discovered at about 6:45 a.m. by the congregation’s rabbi and cantor. We found that the ark had been opened and silver taken,” said Rabbi Pinchos Chazin. “Three Torahs were on the floor, undamaged but stripped of silver.”

BURGLARY TOOLS FOUND IN CAR

At 3:42 a.m., on Jan. 7, police responded to an alarm set off at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El. Sgt. George Clement, of the Lower Merion Township Police Department, driving to the scene, noticed a car making a U-turn away from the synagogue and became suspicious. He stopped the vehicle and found the driver to have a variety of “burglary tools spread out on the car seat,” according to a police source at the Lower Merion Township Police Dept.

The man, a white male, was identified as Albert Joseph Faust, 21, of Upper Darby. Under questioning from the police, Faust said that he “was just out for a ride,” according to the police source. The source added, “He wouldn’t tell you the time of day.”

Faust has cleared the $5,000 bail set for him and is scheduled to appear at a hearing before District Judge Seymour Green.

“We feel that he (Faust) was planning to pick up two other guys, but he saw police activity and tried to flee back to Philadelphia,” said the police source. The source explained that at least two accomplices were suspected because “footprints of at least two people were found in the snow.”

The synagogue alarm was set off and the burglars fled, police believe, when a small window in a door was broken. Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El officials refused to comment. The temple had been burglarized previously on September 26, when silver Torah ornaments were reported stolen. That incident was one of seven synagogue thefts which occurred along the Main Line and in the Philadelphia area during an eight-week period from mid-August to October.

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