BERLIN (JTA) — Several Torah scrolls were stolen from Antwerp’s main synagogue in what may be the largest such theft ever reported in Belgium.
Congregation members arrived for morning services on Saturday to find that four to six Torah scrolls had been taken overnight Friday from the synagogue on Oostenstraat. One of the missing scrolls is more than 200 years old and was hidden by a Jewish woman held in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.
Community leaders suspect that the thieves had inside information on how to reach the ark through a hallway door into the sanctuary.
Pinchas Kornfeld, head of the city’s Jewish community, told Ynet that "the last people to leave the synagogue closed the seminary, and the first ones to arrive in the morning noticed that the holy ark had been broken into."
Police have investigated the scene and are seeking possible images captured on video surveillance cameras in the area, according to the Belgian Jewish newspaper Joods Aktueel.
Experts have suggested that the thieves are more likely to demand a ransom for the Torah scrolls rather than try to sell them, as buyers want to know the origin of a scroll and the stolen scrolls are easily identifiable, Joods Aktueel reported.
During World War II, 10 Torah scrolls and hundreds of prayer books were thrown out of the synagogue into the street and burned.