Ben Who? Synagogue Hit with Rash of Identity Thefts


No Score, N.Y. — An Orthodox synagogue in this largely chasidic community north of Manhattan is investigating cases of identity theft after intruders used stolen Hebrew names when called to the Torah.

According to a police report, several individuals who were not synagogue members approached the shul’s gabbai, or sexton, at Sabbath services and identified themselves by the stolen Hebrew names. The impostors were then called to the Torah for a blessing, known as an aliyah, when per custom they pledged a donation to the synagogue.

Congregants discovered the identity thefts only after receiving invoices from the shul office. One synagogue member, Noah Mazel ben Nissan Altima, said he was falsely billed for nine aliyahs over the past half year.

“It’s outrageous,” said Rabbi Mayer Culpa, spiritual leader of Congregation Ohbehave Yisrael. “The blessing of the Torah is a beautiful, sacred trust, and instead we get stiffed for $1,700.”

Rabbi Culpa said he is unsure how the Hebrew names were stolen. “Sadly, identity theft isn’t a new crime,” the rabbi noted. “It goes all the way back to Esau and Jacob in the Bible.”

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