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Czech Jews Reporting Judaica Thefts

Jewish communities in Czechoslovakia have reported a series of thefts of valuable religious artifacts from synagogues and other Jewish institutions.

The most recent was the pillage of ceremonial objects from the synagogue in Brno, in Moravia. Arnost Neufeld, president of the Jewish community there who is visiting nearby Trebic, said the theft occurred within the past month.

He said the stolen objects are probably worth 10 times the official $3,300 estimate, not to mention their historical and emotional value.

Dr. Arno Parik, head of the Jewish Museum in Prague, said the theft of Jewish ritual objects has become so commonplace that he has alerted collectors of Judaica in Israel to be on the lookout for stolen articles.

He said that when Pope John Paul II visited Bratislava last April, the security forces in the Slovak capital were so preoccupied with his protection that thieves managed to break into the Jewish community’s offices and steal valuable silver articles being prepared for an exhibition.

Christian houses of worship have also been robbed, and the crime rate in Czechoslovakia in fact has soared since the ouster of the Communist regime last year, community leaders say.

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