NEW YORK (JTA) — A Holocaust survivors group has asked Maryland to launch a fraud investigation into the sale of reclaimed Holocaust-era Torah scrolls.
The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants requested a probe into the work of Rabbi Menachem Youlus and Save A Torah Inc., a non-profit foundation that supports the rabbi’s finding, purchasing and restoring of European Torahs, in a letter to state Attorney General Douglas Gansler.
Four Maryland synagogues have bought Torah scrolls from Youlus. A Washington Post article published in January suggested that the dramatic stories told by the rabbi of the scrolls’ origins were false.
An independent investigation by two scribes commissioned by Save A Torah found that eight of the 11 scrolls restored and sold by Youlus are “suitable for ritual use in the synagogue,” according to a statement and report issued by foundation president Rick Zitelman, the Post reported. All of the Torahs examined by the scribes were found to be written in pre-Holocaust years in Eastern Europe.
Youlus has claimed that he found the Torah scrolls in monastery basements, buried in the ground and in former concentration camps. To smuggle Torahs out of some countries, the rabbi has said he was beaten up and threatened, the Baltimore Jewish Times reported.