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Torah rescue group agrees to verify scrolls’ origins

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(JTA) — A nonprofit group that rescues and restores Torah scrolls has agreed that it will only describe the origins of a Torah if it is independently verifiable.

In an agreement with state officials made public Monday, the Maryland-based Save a Torah said it would describe the origins of its rescued Torahs only “if there is documentation or an independent verifiable witness to such history.”

The agreement comes several months after The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants requested that the Maryland attorney general probe the work of Rabbi Menachem Youlus and Save A Torah Inc., a nonprofit foundation that supports the rabbi’s finding, purchasing and restoring of European Torahs.

A Washington Post article published in January suggested that the dramatic stories told by the rabbi of the scrolls’ origins were false. Questions also arose in 2008 after an article in The New York Times reported on allegations that a Torah scroll donated to the Central Synagogue in Manhattan was not actually saved by a Polish priest during World War II after Jewish prisoners entrusted it to him, as Youlus had stated.

“The fraudulent sale of so-called ‘Holocaust Torah scrolls’ by the group Save a Torah has been brought to an inglorious end as the result of legal steps by state officials of Maryland,” Menachem Rosensaft, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, said Monday in a statement.

Under the agreement with the Maryland secretary of state and its attorney general, Save a Torah agreed to “take all reasonable steps necessary to ensure that its board members, employees, independent contractors and other agents will only describe where a Torah was found or provide an account of its rescue if there is documentation or an independent verifiable witness to such history. In the absence of such verifiable proof, there will be no discussion of the circumstances under which the Torah was rescued so that those who dedicate or receive rescued Torahs can do so with total confidence.”
 

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