MONTICELLO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The scene of crime was Monticello’s Landfield Avenue Synagogue, where Saturday morning, the rabbi discovered something important was missing.
“And I just could not believe what I saw. The torah was gone,” Rabbi Ben-Zion Chanowitz told CBS 2’s John Slattery on Wednesday.
Rabbi Chanowitz has a photo of the stolen torah, which his congregation acquired from Israel about 10 years ago and used in daily services.
“Somebody just violated our synagogue,” the rabbi said.
The stolen Sefer torah, a handwritten copy of the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, is said to be valued at $35,000.
The thief entered by shattering a rear window. Once inside, he went throughout the synagogue.
The doors to three offices were forced open. Security was turned off for the Sabbath so there were no cameras. As much as $200 in cash was taken. Several other torahs, including the ones used in the main sanctuary, were safely locked up in a safe, but the one that was not, was taken.
The rabbi said he believes the motive was to sell it.
“What they may end up doing is putting it on the black market, and why would they want a torah?” Rabbi Chanowitz said.
While no extraneous markings are allowed to identify torahs, a rabbinical ruling in the 1980s allowed for registered, coded, needle perforations to identify ownership.
Rabbi Chanowitz said the missing torah was, indeed, registered.
The rabbi says, in the past, he’s helped out several ex-cons, even employing a few; something police are now looking into.
Handwritten torah scrolls, which take about a year to copy, are typically valued at $20,000 and up.
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