Synagogue vandals, Torah thieves get probation

(JTA) – Two men who admitted to vandalizing a Texas synagogue and dumping its Torah scroll in a landfill were sentenced to 10 years probation and fined.

James William Wilsford, 24, and Derrick Randall Nelms, 20, were sentenced Feb. 18 by a judge in Sherman for their October 2009 attack on Temple Beth Emeth in that Texas town.

In addition to the probation and $3,000 fine each, each must complete 400 hours of community service and a drug treatment program.

In the attack, Wilsford and Nelms damaged the inside of the building, stole the Torah scroll,and burned prayer books in an alleged attempt to burn down the building.

The Torah scroll was brought from Europe to the United States before World War II, and was donated to the synagogue several decades ago, according to the Herald Democrat. It had been used in all of the congregation’s worship services and celebrations, the newspaper reported.

"The judge gave a sentence that will help them get the help they need and to turn their lives around," Andy Faber, a member of Temple Beth Emeth, told the Sherman television news channel KXII. "They’re young, and if they do what they are supposed to do they will become productive citizens."

The congregation will get a new Torah scroll next month donated by a synagogue in Arkansas, according to the news channel.
 

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