Israeli rabbi said to be suspected of stealing Torah scrolls


(JTA) — A rabbi suspected of stealing Torah scrolls from the synagogue of his community near Beersheva reportedly was arrested.

Kikar HaShabat, a Hebrew-language news site on religious affairs, reported that police requested Wednesday that the Beersheva Magistrate’s Court remand the suspect for another 24 hours. He had been arrested the previous day, the site reported.  

According to a report on the Hebrew edition of the Ynet news site, the rabbi — who was not mentioned by name — had confessed to taking seven Torah scrolls from the synagogue of Brosh, a moshav northeast of the city in southern Israel.

The alleged theft was discovered Monday, on Simchat Torah. In many Orthodox and Conservative congregations, it is the only time of year when Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark. Worshipers dance with the scrolls as part of the Hakafot ceremony; some read the scrolls at night. 

In Brosh, the worshipers opened the ark at the request of a boy who wanted to see the actual scroll, Ynet reported. Upon opening the ark, the worshipers found blank paper sheets that may have been placed inside for weight.

Mordechai Deri, who regularly attends the synagogue, told the Israeli daily Maariv that he inspected all other seven Torah scrolls and found that they also had been replaced.

Maariv said the rabbi declined to answer its questions.

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