New York (Feb. 19)
– A total of 17 Torahs of an estimated value of $186,000 have been stolen from synagogues in various parts of Brooklyn since last month. While they have yet to come up with clues, local police believe the thefts are linked and may be the work of an organized gang which steals the holy scrolls on consignment for fences operating in other regions of the country.
The largest single theft occurred during the night of Jan. 3-4 when thieves made off with seven Torahs valued at $105,000 from the Yeshiva Yavne synagogue, a congregation in the Boro Park section. On Feb. 9, eight more Torahs and other religious artifacts were stolen from the Avenue Z Jewish Center near Brighton Beach. They were valued at $75,000.
The latest theft of two Torahs valued at $6,000 was from the Hasidic Synagogue in the Midwood section of Flatbush. Witnesses described the thief as a white male. There have been other thefts from synagogues and churches in Brooklyn, mainly of gold and silver ornaments. The Torahs, however, have no re-sale value except to congregations.
One police theory is that the stolen Torahs are being sold by fences to newly established Jewish communities in the “sun belt” — the south and southwest — where many Jewish families from the northeast have resettled in recent years.