Five Torah scroll were stolen from a St. Petersburg synagogue in Russia Tuesday night, including one the congregation had obtained just last year.
During the night, at least two thieves broke through a window at the St. Petersburg Synagogue, broke the lock on the ark and fled with the holy scrolls, according to David Pollack, administrator of the Universal Torah Registry.
According to Pollack, the method of the theft has led investigators to believe that the thieves knew exactly what they were after.
They stole nothing else and committed no vandalism, said Pollack, who is also the associate executive director of the New York Jewish Community Relations Council.
Russian police are zeroing in on a suspect, he said.
The Universal Torah Registry, based in New York City, has offered a $1,000 reward for the St. Petersburg scrolls’ safe return, though those Torahs were not registered with the organization, Pollack said.
The registry has also alerted U.S. customs officials and Israeli police is an effort to close off the two most likely ports of entry through which the thieves would try and sell the Torahs, Pollack said.
Nearly 10,000 Torahs, most of them in the United States, are registered with the organization, he said.
He said that since the group’s founding in 1982, thefts of Torahs have dropped from about 200 each year in the United States to “virtually nil.”
Each registered Torah scroll is marked with a pattern of eight tiny holes made with a super-fine needle. The placement of the perforations tells the registry identifies the owner of the Torah.
Pollock said he knew of no other Torah stolen from the former Soviet Union in recent years.